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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY
Interview With Kentucky Senator Rand Paul; Interview With California Senator Dianne Feinstein; Interview With Woodward and Bernstein
Aired June 22, 2014 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Too few? Too many? Too late? Iraq redux. Too few? Too many? Too late? Iraq redux.
Today, Senators Rand Paul and Dianne Feinstein on Iraq, the risks of returning, the price of staying home.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The issue that I keep front and center is, what is in the national security interests of the United States of America?
CROWLEY: And 40 years later, Watergate summer.
RICHARD NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This principle of confidentiality of presidential conversations is at stake in the question of these tapes.
CROWLEY: Bob Woodward And Carl Bernstein join us to talk then and now.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: I just -- I don't believe it. That's your problem. Nobody believes you.
CROWLEY: Disappearing IRS e-mails, fading presidential poll numbers and the omnipresent Hillary Clinton, our political panel weighs in.
This is STATE OF THE UNION.
CROWLEY: Good morning from Washington. I'm Candy Crowley.
Four more Iraqi towns have fallen to ISIS, an Islamist militia that is plowing its way through Iraq on the way to Baghdad, this as the initial group of U.S. military advisers is expected to arrive soon in Iraq.
Joining me now, Senator Rand Paul, Republican from Kentucky.
A rare treat to find you in town, so thanks for being here. SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Good morning.
CROWLEY: Looking at the situation in Iraq as it is now, what would President Paul do?
PAUL: I think we have to understand first how got here and then we have to decide as a country where we are going.
I think there's chaos in the Middle East, and I think the chaos is because we have created a vacuum. Before the Iraq war, I think there was somewhat of a standoff between Sunni and Shiite, had been for maybe 1,000 years off and on.
But now we have a chaotic situation. We have a vacuum. And I think one of the reasons why ISIS has been emboldened is because we have been arming their allies. We have been allied with ISIS in Syria. They have had a safe haven because we have been arming the rebels to keep Assad away from them.
And now they go back and forth. So I think our intervention in Syria has led precisely...
PAUL: ... Iraq.
CROWLEY: You know, it may have, Senator. But when one's sitting in the Oval Office, you have to think, what do we do now?
So, does -- would a President Paul at this moment send U.S. advisers and say, go and see what we can do to help the Iraqi army? Would a President Paul say, I might do airstrikes?
PAUL: I think the first thing you would have to do is follow the Constitution. The Constitution says that Congress decides. The president doesn't have the unilateral authority to begin war. And...
CROWLEY: But do you think it is a good idea?
PAUL: Well, here is what I would say, is...
CROWLEY: Some of your Republican colleagues...
PAUL: ... this is an incredibly important point.
The Reagan doctrine for how we go to war is that you should have a consensus of the people. So, there needs to be a full-throated debate, a full-throated debate in Congress, and Congress has to decide.
Militarily, we could go back in. The surge worked. Obviously, we have the military might and power. But the country as a whole has to decide, do we want to send 100,000 troops in? Are we willing to have 4,500 young Americans die to save a city like Mosul that the Shiites won't even save, that they have fled?
CROWLEY: What does Rand Paul think at this point?
PAUL: No ground troops. I think that we need to see...
CROWLEY: Right. And I think most everybody agrees. How about airstrikes?
PAUL: I think we need to see what the Shiites will do to defend themselves. If the Shiites aren't willing to fight for their country, it may be that their country is not going to exist.
CROWLEY: You know, because by the time you hold a plebiscite and find out how people feel about Iraq, by the time you get Congress to do anything, it is two weeks later, and the ISIS is sitting in Baghdad.
CROWLEY: So you're going to have to move pretty quickly here. But you're against airstrikes?
PAUL: Well, there are times -- there are times when we -- when a president would move quickly, to dispel an imminent threat to our country.
But where I disagree with the president is, his theory in Libya was that that there was an imminent threat to Benghazi. That's not what an imminent threat is. It's an imminent threat to our country. And so what I would say is that the Shiites who are ripping their uniforms off and running need to stand up and fight. And could we assist them in some way? I'm not ruling that out.
But I would first wait to see, are the Shiites going to fight for their country or not?
CROWLEY: Let me play you something that one of your Republican colleagues said, Senator Marco Rubio. He was talking about why this is important, and he does believe that national security is at stake.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: The reason why we care is because we cannot allow a safe haven to develop there that can be used to carry out attacks that can kill Americans, including here in our homeland.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: So, do you believe that the ISIS is a national security threat to the United States?
PAUL: Well, do you know where the safe haven is? The safe haven's in Syria.
So, those who have been...
(CROSSTALK) PAUL: Let me -- let me finish, because the thing is, is that
they would not be empowered and in Iraq if we were not providing safe haven in Syria by arming their allies.
CROWLEY: So should we go to Syria? I mean, the thing is, we kind of are where we are. So, the question is whether they're a threat.
PAUL: No. No. Well, we are where we are because -- we are where we are because we armed the Syrian rebels.
We have been fighting alongside al Qaeda, fighting alongside ISIS. ISIS is now emboldened and in two countries. But here's the anomaly. We're with ISIS in Syria. We're on the same side of the war. So, those who want to get involved to stop ISIS in Iraq are allied with ISIS in Syria. That is the real contradiction to this whole policy.
CROWLEY: Right. Many of your Republican colleagues would argue that what we should have done in Syria was get rid of Assad, and that would have stopped ISIS in its tracks. But...
PAUL: But -- no, but we have done this. Look at Libya. We went into Libya and we got rid of that terrible Gadhafi. Now it is a jihadist wonderland over there. There's jihadists everywhere.
If we were to get rid of Assad, it would be a jihadist wonderland in Syria. It's now a jihadist wonderland in Iraq, precisely because we got overinvolved, not because we had too little involvement, but too much involvement.
CROWLEY: And here we are. Can a terrorist haven in Iraq -- does a terrorist haven in Iraq, which it may be soon, threaten the national security of the U.S., yes or no?
PAUL: It could -- well, it could at some point.
I would say, right now, if you are a member of ISIS, you're looking at the Shiites right in front of you and the battles you are fighting. I don't believe that ISIS is right now in the middle of a battle saying, hmm, I think we're going to send intercontinental ballistic missiles to America. So could they be a threat? Yes. But what I would say is...
CROWLEY: Shouldn't we stop them now?
PAUL: Well, we should have not armed them. If we wouldn't have armed them in Syria, maybe they wouldn't...
PAUL: ... in Iraq.
CROWLEY: That's the past, right, but now?
PAUL: So, the past -- the past is six months ago. CROWLEY: Right.
PAUL: The past -- the past is still the current as well. It is the present.
We are still arming the radical Islamic rebels in Syria. So, the homeland -- they are going back and forth across the border. They go back into Syria, and that is a homeland that we are helping to defend for them.
CROWLEY: But what would you do? How do you stop that?
PAUL: Well, let's not be involved in a Syrian civil war, and let's not be involved in the Iraq civil war. I think that...
CROWLEY: So, out altogether?
PAUL: Well, no, what I would say...
PAUL: No, what I would say is that Maliki is an ally, although here's the thing, is, they think they are going to create stability by pushing Maliki out in the middle of a war.
So, we push him out and then we have another power vacuum and nobody leading the country at all. What I would say is, and my prediction is that Maliki will stand up and the Shiites will stand up, that ISIS will not be able to take Baghdad, and there will be a civil war over there.
But there will be a civil war with feckless people on one side that aren't necessarily great allies of ours, who are allies of Iran, and on the other side, allies of al Qaeda. You have to ask yourself, are you willing to send your son, am I willing to send my son to retake back a city, Mosul, that they weren't willing to defend themselves? I'm not willing to send my son into that mess.
CROWLEY: Let me move you to a different subject.
And that is, you are working with Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, on reestablishing federal voting rights to nonviolent felons who have served parole and et cetera. What -- what -- of all the issues facing Congress at this point, what draws you to that? Is this about Republican inroads into minority communities?
PAUL: As I have traveled about the country and within my state talking to people, I found a number of people -- in fact, as I have explored the issue, there's nearly a million people in our country who have lost their voting rights.
In Kentucky, you lose your voting rights forever. I have a friend whose brother grew marijuana plants 30 years ago in college, has a felony conviction, and still cannot vote 30 years ago. I think that's wrong and unfair. Republicans, I think, have been unfairly tarred as, oh, trying to
suppress vote. Here's a Republican who wants to enhance the vote. This is a much bigger problem than anything else limiting voting right now. Nearly a million people can't vote. And I want to help people get their right to vote back.
CROWLEY: And, as we know, African-Americans, percentage-wise, certainly make up a larger percentage of folks being incarcerated. I think the NAACP has estimated about a third of young black males are in jail.
Is this a way for the Republican Party to begin outreach, which they have said for decades they needed to do, into minority communities?
PAUL: Well, I think it is both.
I believe in the issue, but you are right. It is opening the door for me to talk to communities. Three out of four people in prison are black or brown for nonviolent drug use. However, when you do surveys, white kids are doing drugs at an equal rate, and they are a much bigger part of the population.
So, why are the prisons full of black and brown kids? It is easier to arrest them. It is easier to convict them. They don't get as good of attorneys. And, frankly, they live in the city in a much more collected fashion than in the suburbs, and so the police are patrolling the city more.
But it is unfair. The war on drugs has had a racial outcome, unintentionally, but it has a racial outcome. And I want to try to fix it.
CROWLEY: And we should say, your bill in fact does change some drug laws in order to try to even out the punishment for similar drugs.
PAUL: Yes. Yes.
CROWLEY: Last question, quickly, just because this brings up the whole idea of voter registration and getting people out to vote.
Hillary Clinton recently proposed that there should be an automatic registering of voters once they turn 18. What do you think?
PAUL: I think voting should require a little bit of effort, but I am for people voting.
Registration is not as big a deal for me, how we do it. In fact, I have talked with other senators about maybe online registration to make it easier. But voting needs to be in person.
I don't like the concept of, you don't even have to get off your couch to vote. So, I am for going to the polls. But I'm also giving their voting rights back. And I'm for everyone voting, no matter who you are, whether you're Democrat, Republican, independent. I think more, the better.
CROWLEY: Senator Rand Paul, some of your proposals coming up in the Senate this week, I understand.
CROWLEY: So, we will be watching that closely.
PAUL: Thank you.
CROWLEY: Thank you so much for being here.
PAUL: Thank you.
CROWLEY: Next up: Senator Dianne Feinstein has seen the intelligence on Iraq for more than a decade. She will tell us if the U.S. dropped the ball again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: There's no amount of American firepower that's going to be able to hold the country together, and I made that very clear to Mr. Maliki and all the other leadership inside of Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Joining me now, Senator Dianne Feinstein. She is chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Thank you for being here.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIR: You're welcome.
CROWLEY: And that's where I want to begin, because I -- I didn't take a poll or anything, but I imagine that most Americans were surprised to learn 10 days ago or a week ago that something called the ISIS had taken over a third of Iraq.
Did U.S. intelligence spot this problem? Did you know of it ahead of time? And was the severity of it obvious through the intelligence?
FEINSTEIN: Well, obviously, we know about ISIS. We have seen its developments in Syria.
We're aware of the fact that they are recruiting fighters in Europe. There have been arrests in Spain, France and Germany. They have tried to assassinate the head of security in Beirut. And they were responsible for the killing of three or four people at a Brussels synagogue. They are vicious. They have killed thousands of people. They have cut off heads. They are a major threat.
CROWLEY: So, we knew they were a brutal bunch and a major threat.
FEINSTEIN: We knew they were a brutal bunch.
CROWLEY: Did we know that a third of Iraq could be taken over so quickly? Did we see that coming?
FEINSTEIN: I would have to say no.
But I think it is a real wakeup call for the United States, because they do want to develop the caliphate. They do want to -- and they now have just about destroyed the border with Syria. I think the president is doing the right thing.
He's being a bit circumspect. He's being thoughtful. I think we're building our so-called ISR assets...
FEINSTEIN: ... so that some pinpointed action can be taken.
But I think the most important thing that I can say today is that the Iraqi state, as a state, is in danger, that there is a limited period of time, that Ayatollah Ali Sistani and his message that we cannot repeat the mistakes of the past, that this Iraqi government, newly reorganizing, has to move and develop a coterie of leaders that can quickly reach out and reconcile, or else we are in the middle of a major Sunni-Shia war. That's my hope.
Now, let me -- let me just go back to the first point. It is a little startling to me that, after some intelligence failures in the past, that the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee says, yes, it was a surprise to find out that it could move that quickly and kind of buzz their way through Sunni territories quick, but, nonetheless, so quickly and get so close to Baghdad.
What happened here? Isn't here -- does that upset you? Is that a failure?
FEINSTEIN: Well, let's look at this practically.
You either have to have the technical means up in the sky or in other places, or you have to have assets, people who will give you human intelligence. This is a different culture. It is very difficult to pierce. The piercing, intelligence-wise, from the position of human intelligence, has been very difficult all along.
So I think there is a view that, well, we're always going to criticize. And we just can't do this. We have to build up the diversity of our intelligence assets and see that they're adequate.
CROWLEY: ... a local culture.
FEINSTEIN: Yes, we have lackings in North -- North Africa, in Yemen. The world is a big place, Candy. And this is extraordinarily difficult to do.
CROWLEY: Is the ISIS an immediate threat to U.S. homeland security?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I believe it can be.
I believe that they're recruiting in Europe, there's no question, in these three places, Spain, Germany, the number of passport fighters. We know there are at least 100 Americans that have gone to the arena to fight who have an American passport, who are going to try to get back.
We know that they can go back to the European country, and, if it is a visa waiver country, come right in to the United States. So this is where I think we need to build our intelligence to see that we can disrupt the plot in this country before it happens, because there will be plots to kill Americans.
CROWLEY: And, worst-case scenario, ISIS runs through Baghdad, you get the sectarian war that you are talking about, Iraq becomes a terrorist haven. What's the U.S. contingency plan here for a group that you say threatens U.S. shores?
FEINSTEIN: Well, what is the U.S. contingency plan for this?
Candidly, I don't know what the U.S. contingency plan is for a complete takeover of Syria and Iraq.
I do know that what we're on the foot of is a major Sunni-Shia war. So, the question comes -- what John Kerry is doing is important. He's in Cairo. Hopefully, he's going to meet with the -- with Qatar, with Saudi Arabia, with other Sunni nations and say, look, we need your help.
At the same time, I think -- and this is my view -- that we should be talking with Iran. You have to realize, Sunnis are in the majority in the world, and the Shia now, with the mobilization of Muqtada Sadr's Mahdi army, that will be tens of thousands of Shiite fighters.
And we are on the verge of something very serious. And I think we have to meet it. I think our allies have to help us. And I think Iran can play a major role in moving out Maliki and developing a reconciliation government. That is if there is the desire to maintain Iraq as a state.
CROWLEY: The supreme leader in Iran has said the U.S. needs to stay out of this, Maliki can handle this, Iraqi troops can handle this.
How much credence should we give that?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I think we should stay out of it right now.
I think the reconciliation has to be done through a new government in Iraq. And it has to be effective. We have got to keep the Kurds. We have got to enable them to have some share of oil, get outstanding tax receipts. Do those kinds of things. And I think there has to be Sunni participation in the government. Otherwise, it is a real problem.
CROWLEY: And, finally, I have to ask you.
The former Governor of Montana Brian Schweitzer, a fellow Democrat, was discussing your role in the NSA and surveillance, et cetera, et cetera, and what you knew and didn't know, but used really unflattering terms, likening you to something which I'm not going to repeat, because everybody can look it up on Google.
I know that you said he better not come in a room with my husband. Brian Schweitzer has apologized.
But I want to know just flat-out, what was your first reaction when they told you what he said?
FEINSTEIN: Well, my first action -- reaction was that I laughed, to tell you the truth.
And he's got a -- clearly, a rather large mouth, and all sorts of things come out. I think that's really too bad, but it is the way it is.
CROWLEY: It is the way it is, and women kind of -- that have been in power for a long time understand, sometimes, these sorts of things happen.
FEINSTEIN: Yes, exactly. Yes.
CROWLEY: Let me just ask you quickly, has he called you to apologize?
CROWLEY: Would that help?
FEINSTEIN: No. It -- but it says something, doesn't it?
CROWLEY: It does.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, thank you so much.
Happy birthday to you on this day.
FEINSTEIN: Well, thank you very much.
CROWLEY: And we appreciate your coming...
FEINSTEIN: Thank you.
CROWLEY: ... and sharing a part of your birthday with us.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you. I appreciate that, Candy.
CROWLEY: Thank you.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you.
CROWLEY: Now, what is the one thing George W. Bush warned about Iraq before he left office? Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein have the answer, and they're next.
CROWLEY: Joining me now, two journalists whose reporting brought down President Nixon and forever changed the relationship between politicians and the media, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, out with the 40th edition of their book "All the President's Men."
Goodness, 40 years.
CROWLEY: Makes me tired thinking of it.
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well put.
CROWLEY: I wanted to start with the subject du jour, which is Iraq and what's going on in Iraq.
And in "The War Within, what you wrote about what was going on inside the Bush administration when these decisions were being made, you said, "'Not as a Democrat or as a Republican, but as the president" -- this is you to Bush -- "What are you going to say to the new leader" -- Obama -- "about what you are handing off in Iraq?' He" -- President Bush -- "thought about it for a moment. 'What I will say is, don't let it fail.'"
BOB WOODWARD, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes. Wasn't that interesting?
So, I think my question to you both first is, knowing what we know now, is Iraq failing? And write me some history already. Who's going to get blamed for it?
WOODWARD: Well, everyone is to blame. And it's clearly a mess.
But, if you look at it, I mean, as Senator Feinstein said, they didn't really see this coming. I think, in our business, the news business, we didn't do enough reporting. We kind of absorbed President Obama's state of mind. Oh, well, it's over. We're getting out. And, clearly, it is not over. And so, again, this goes back to
the fundamentals of journalism. Did we spend enough time in Iraq? Did we really do the excavation to understand what was going on and what was U.S. policy and really what was driving it?
CROWLEY: And apparently...
CROWLEY: ... Syria.
BERNSTEIN: We have to go back to -- back to the original war in Iraq, when the press did the same thing.
We went to war under false pretenses. President Bush took us there, he and Cheney, the neoconservatives. And we hadn't done our homework about the realities of what was going on in Iraq about weapons of mass destruction.
And this is one of the great disasters ongoing now through two administrations, through two terms of two administrations each, a great disaster for this country.
CROWLEY: So, if President Bush clearly got us into this, do you both -- now, as you know, there is this great war going on between Republicans and Democrats, well, he lost Iraq.
When we look at it 10 years from now, is one responsible for getting us in and the other responsible for not getting us out properly?
WOODWARD: Well, I think if you look at -- and, again, this is reporting. And I agree with Carl, and I fault myself mightily on the weapons of mass destruction belief we had at the time of the war.
And I and people in -- I, in particular, should have been much more aggressive on this. But we should have been aggressive when the president said, oh, we're getting out.
There were people in the military strongly advocating, let's keep 10,000 troops there as an insurance policy. And we know we -- we all live on insurance policies. And this is a case where they didn't do it.
Would it have solved the problem and made that much of a difference? We don't know. But the experts, the generals were saying -- I mean they were almost on their knees, keep some troops here and we left zero.
CROWLEY: (INAUDIBLE) Carl, a former vice president, Dick Cheney, threw sort of gasoline on the fire this week, wrote an op-ed in the "Wall Street Journal." Among other things -- this was titled "The Collapsing Obama Doctrine." He and his daughter Liz wrote, "Terrorists take control of more territory and resources than ever before in history, and he goes golfing. He seems blithely unaware or indifferent to the fact, that a resurgent al Qaeda presents a clear and present danger to the United States of America."
I don't even have to ask you a question, do I?
BERNSTEIN: Well, actually, there really is something off the wall about what Cheney is doing and saying here given his responsibility for this. I think the psychiatrist would call it projection. Blaming President Obama for this morass that we are in, largely of his and his colleagues' making but Bob is absolutely right here.
You said about 10 years. What's it going to look like 10 years from now? We don't know but we need to start doing real reporting in this town about what the hell is going on and start to come up with a notion of how various institutions are addressing real problems in real time. We're not doing it. I mean, if you look at everything we've seen on this show this morning, it is indicative of that.
WOODWARD: Yes. And if you look at the Eric Cantor loss, primary loss, ending his career as the house majority leader in a district in Richmond that there should have been reporters all over that story and everyone was caught by surprise because people weren't there, people weren't knocking on doors, people were not listen in this -- the theme here is not listening and not taking the time, sitting at the computer, looking for a clever tweet or to say something on a blog rather than going out -- when we were working together on the Nixon case, we could work two or three weeks on a story.
Editors would look at a draft and say, now wait, what about this? Get more sources. Drive in to this, make sure you are on solid ground. Now if you have an advance on a story, they're in your office saying get it on the Web site in one hour.
CROWLEY: Exactly. And do you -- I mean, it is a matter, first of all, sometimes of economics. We all know papers, as well as cable broadcast, everybody is working with limited budgets now and yet, you know, more and more you see all of these things. It reminds you that Watergate was such a template for a scandal, right? In the sense of now everything that somebody wants to have appear like a scandal or is a scandal "gate" comes at the end of it.
In your opinion, what is out there that's a real "gate"? Are there other Watergates out there and we are simply missing them or do we actually know what they are and just aren't --
BERNSTEIN: I think we ought to get back to basics. It's interesting where this whole discussion is going. Let's look at what this 40th anniversary edition of "All the President's Men" is. What is this book?
It is really a kind of primer about basic reporting if you look at it after 40 years. Yes, it shows that the Nixon administration and President Nixon was a criminal president such as we've never had in our existence in this country. It was a criminal presidency from his first days in office until the end. And it's the same time you see an institution of the press, not through a lot of hocus-pocus, not through spending a fortune, incidentally, through very basic -- we were very low paid at the time.
And what did we do? We went out and knocked on a bunch of doors at night of people who worked for are President Nixon and his re- election committee. And voila, what happened? Well, people wanted to tell the truth as they saw it and we sat there and listened. It is kind of basic. And I think if you look at the way resources are distributed around this town particularly now, journalistic resources, I'm not so sure the problem is institutional lack of financial support. I'm not sure what all of these thousands of reporters -- I don't want to sound like an old guy complaining here -- which, maybe I am -- I'm not sure what they're doing.
So much is going into commentary. What are the institutions that have a fortune that could finance more reporting than we've ever seen in the history of the business? The three television networks. They require that their news divisions make money like they're entertainment divisions. They could finance 400 reporters each of those networks.
WOODWARD: And to answer your question about what's out there, I mean take Benghazi, a highly politicized issue. And I've looked at all those e-mails that were released. It takes a day to make sense of them. And if you dig into it, there are unanswered questions. And Hillary Clinton was out saying, oh, you know, I'm not going to deal with this, this is politics, and so forth, and she's modified her position saying, there are things we don't know. There are unanswered questions.
And Carl's exactly right, you put 10 people on that and you say, go to work. You don't have to give me the answers tomorrow or the next day, but take your time. The same on the IRS scandal. That is a real issue. Some people should move to Cincinnati and get hotel rooms and say, we're going to talk to everyone who worked in that division of the IRS.
BERNSTEIN: Also, as happened in Watergate, let some Democrats get up and say, we want a real bipartisan investigation of what happened in Cincinnati, in the IRS. Get it out in the hands of the Republican grandstanders who are trying to make political points instead of conduct a serious investigation, and put together and start to get some facts as happened in Watergate.
CROWLEY: Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward, we are coming up on the 40th anniversary of the resignation of Richard Nixon. I hope you'll come back in August. And by the way, the book is tremendous. I mean, not just journalism students. Everybody ought to read it again if they haven't already but it is a great book. Thank you both for being here.
IRS e-mails wanted by Congress go missing. Does the agency's explanation pass the smell test and what does it mean for the fall election elections? Our panel is next.
CROWLEY: Joining me around the table, S.E Cupp, host of CNN's "CROSSFIRE." Penny Lee, Democratic strategist and former adviser to Senator Harry Reid. Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson, and CNN political commentator, Donna Brazile. Thank you for being here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning.
CROWLEY: So, I want to pick up where Woodward and Bernstein left off, which was with the IRS.
Just from a political point of view, I found it fascinating that Paul Ryan, who may or may not want to run for president in 2016, Republican, basically said to the IRS guy after we learned about the missing e-mails, you know, no one believes you, you know, you're not believable and I don't believe you. That struck me as kind of a moment in the campaign.
S.E. CUPP, CNN CROSSFIRE HOST: Yes. Paul Ryan is not a grandstander. He's not one of the guys that takes every opportunity he gets to have a moment. This struck me as very genuine and what I get the sense is, Paul Ryan went home to Wisconsin and heard from a lot of angry constituents. And the American people feel as though they've been stone walled on the IRS from the beginning. The administration was quick to offer up low leveled bureaucrats in the Cincinnati office that never passed the smell test. Then we got Lois Lerner who clammed up, wouldn't say anything. And now suddenly the emails are gone. So, I think that was a very visceral reaction to probably reactions (INAUDIBLE).
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: But the Republicans are hell-bent on finding a conspiracy or identifying a scandal so they have something to talk about rather than jobs and the economy which most Americans want to talk about.
The only lie here is to lie that I think conservatives are telling and saying that somehow another this was a conspiracy against conservatives. They also investigated liberal groups, groups that have progressive in their name, groups that had Israel in its name. So the IRS was basically looking at everybody because they were trying to figure out where all of this fake, phony, secretive money was flowing in the last election cycle.
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: (INAUDIBLE) then what doesn't make sense is why not just be forthcoming? Why did the emails disappear? I think that's the problem. If conservatives are -
ANDERSON: If conservative are really wrong (ph), if these are all really scandals where there's no (INAUDIBLE) then these consistent sort of e-mails, the dog ate my homework is sort of a bizarre response. But I think that's why there are a lot of --
BRAZILE: 67,000 e-mails between 2009 and 2011. Then there was a crash in June of 2011 on the hard drive. Any of us with computers know that sometimes they fail. That's why I switch computers.
(CROSSTALK) CROWLEY: (INAUDIBLE) computer think it never goes away that's
PENNY LEE, FORMER DIRECTOR, DEMOCRATIC GOVERNORS ASSOCIATION: I think the irony was almost too rich. I mean, here is the one department had asked for you to keep five, six, seven, eight, 10 years' worth of receipts. And then all of a sudden the dog ate their homework and all of it couldn't be revealed.
I actually think in this case the administration would do right to bring forth an independent auditor themselves to say, where is it? And if the hard drive has in fact crashed and the records aren't there, have that independent validator validate that point because right now we are in a little bit of a morass. There is some question being called into it. Rightly so. And so I think that would actually bode well to the administration
CROWLEY: How about being proactive? Because otherwise, I think Democrats maybe are looking at a fall. Let's see the pre-election period of Benghazi and IRS?
BRAZILE: Candy, I don't think so. There are so many unknowns between now and November 4th. And so I don't think those are the only two issues. Those are the two issues that the Republicans feel comfortable talking about because they have no (ph) other (ph) -
CROWLEY: I don't think the voters are (INAUDIBLE).
BRAZILE: They don't want to talk about substance. They don't want to have a deep conversation about what do we do now in terms of the economy. This is all about let's find a scandal, let's find a gap, let's find something else --
CUPP: Donna, no offense. No offense.
BRAZILE: I won't take offense at you.
CUPP: You don't have to go very far to find the scandal. I mean, whether it's the IRS, which is looking very, very real now. I mean conspiracy theories are not. It is getting really hard to believe anything that we hear.
You have the V.A. scandal which has not gone away. We have not gotten to the bottom of that. That's a non-partisan scandal. That is a horrifying situation and the American people want answers. You have Iraq is exploding. There is a lot, unfortunately for the American people to think about in addition to jobs and the economy.
BRAZILE: S.E., you're right, people are going to be dissatisfied. Those are very important issues. I hope we get to the bottom of the IRS scandal after they review all of the emails and come up with something other than (INAUDIBLE) targeted tea party groups. (INAUDIBLE) targeted everybody. IRS does not target one side of the street. The second thing on the V.A. scandal, that is absolutely horrible that men and women who served our country cannot come back and get the health care they need. We need --
CROWLEY: -- who should be fired?
BRAZILE: But Candy, why is everything a finger pointing as opposed to let's solve the problem and move the country forward? Get back to jobs and the economy.
CROWLEY: Now that we've mentioned a lot of different things that have come up. I just want to show you a poll number. This is from "NBC News/Wall Street Journal." The question was, can President Obama lead the country and get the job done? Yes, 42 percent. No, 54 percent.
Is this lame duckism kicking in a little early, as in pre-mid- terms? Is this a trough that he'll come out of? How does he combat this? That's pretty serious.
BRAZILE: You know what? He should move the White House. He should move the White House to Springfield or some other capital in the country because it is about Washington, D.C. I mean, people are tired of D.C.
ANDERSON: It is not just about Washington, D.C. anymore. So the president's job approval numbers have been trending on the downward for a little while and they used to be about -- in line with where people said, you know, we don't like how he's handling the economy. But now his job approval on foreign policy has actually his historic lows. You can't just point your finger at Congress for that one.
People wonder if the president has the ability to lead on the whole spectrum of issues that fall on his plate. And I think with this lack of confidence voters don't seem poised to give him a more favorable Congress coming up here in the mid-term.
BRAZILE: You know, you would see problem if the Republicans would not stand in the way. Their own job approval is so low that people know they are not worth talking about. But the truth is, Candy, is that it is tough. It is tough to bring Washington together. It is tough to get things done. I guess Candy would agree with me, if I stop talking. It is rather tough to try to move an agenda forward when the other side just want to obstruct and you know (INAUDIBLE).
CROWLEY: That's why they pay presidents the big bucks.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cry me a river.
CROWLEY: How long can you go on and say, well, this person's fault. I mean, at some point it does --
(CROSSTALK) LEE: Sure and we do play this unfortunate parlor game, how fast
can we declare the lame duck presidency. Is it the day of the inauguration? Or maybe we'll wait until the day after.
And so we do are caught up in this parlor game but I think the president has shown through -- as he said from his State of the Union address, he is going to take the pen. He's going to pick up phone. And he is executing on certain things whether it'd be for advocating for the minimum wage, whether it'd be to put an executive order to allow students to be able to repay their loans at (ph) a better way (ph). So, there is action that he is doing. Unfortunately, it doesn't always hit the headlines. And unfortunately a lot of the issues that --
CROWLEY: Well, because Republicans would suggest it might be off the headline and that's what makes it looks like some kind of a disconnect.
LEE: For Democrats in vulnerable red states they're actually not with him on some of those things that they're doing. So that --
CUPP: Nor are -- nor are Republicans in blue.
LEE: Sure. Sure.
CROWLEY: I got to get all of you to just hold on with me just for a second because I have to take a quick break. And when we come back I want to ask you about the Hillary Clinton --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yay.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, good.
CROWLEY: We'll be right back.
CROWLEY: We are back with S.E. Cupp, Penny Lee, Kristen Soltis Anderson and Donna Brazile.
OK. Just want to show a couple things to the audience. First of all since the book launch 10, 12 days ago Hillary Clinton has visited 10 cities.
CROWLEY: She has given 11 interviews just on various forms of TV. This doesn't count radio. It doesn't count print media. And now we're getting the headlines of the overexposed Hillary Clinton.
So, which is it, smart move to do this intense of a book tour or a little too much too early? BRAZILE: Oh, no way. She has -- she put a lot of ink out there.
I am glad that she is out there because for four years she traveled the world and we didn't really hear from her. We didn't know her views on these important issues like same-sex marriage and we didn't know her views on paid maternity leave. Now we know her views on these issues.
And I think it's important that she's out there, that she's traveling the country, that she's talking, reacquainting herself with the American people. This is good stuff. God bless Hillary Clinton. More, more, more.
ANDERSON: So I disagree. It's not necessarily that -- you can be out there giving a lot of interviews but you have to be saying something that's really interesting and most of the headlines have been around the gaffes, the things that she said that have been sort of off message. And the book sales have actually not been great compared to her previous book. Because this is a book that was very carefully vetted so that everything is perfect. The perfect political statement.
And I think people are tired of hearing the same old same old. They're not going to, you know, shell out 20, 30 bucks for a book that is a bunch of political stuff that they can hear anywhere. And I think Hillary Clinton is going to be out there, you know, in America's face for the next couple of months. She has to have something that seems authentic and is fresh to say. And I don't know that we got much out of that --
LEE: So, I guess debuting at number one on "The New York Times" best sellers' list and having thousands of people standing in line just isn't enough -
I think the American people do want to hear from her and what she is saying is, you know, I will do any interview and I will answer any questions and that is -- that is what the American people have wanted to -- have wanted from her. So I think it's a great thing. I think her tour has been phenomenally successful. I imagine in the next month we'll be asking, where is Hillary? Is there something nefarious going on that she has come off her book tour?
CUPP: Let me just say I would love her book sales. I would take them. But, you know, if you were a strategist before this book tour and you were advising Hillary, OK there are a couple of things Hillary Clinton should watch out for because of the 20 years that we've known her these are the things that she has the tendency to sort of fall into.
Don't be so hostile with the press. That doesn't look good. Soften that up. Be a little less arrogant. Don't look above everybody else and like the rules don't apply to you. And maybe don't look so out of touch with the American people. I think all three of those things showed up in this book tour at some point or another. It's early enough that she can correct but this is an ingrained behavior. I don't think --
BRAZILE: But it happened in 2014.
CROWLEY: She's got time to recover.
Donna Brazile, Penny Lee, Kristen Soltis Anderson, S.E. Cupp, come back. Thank you for being here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
CROWLEY: And thank you all for watching. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington and we will be right back.