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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY

Interview With Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair; NFL Under Fire; Nasty Campaigns

Aired September 21, 2014 - 09:00   ET

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


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: A British family's personal appeal for the life of a loved one in the hands of ISIS, and President Obama's global appeal for a united war against this latest terrorist threat.

Today, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Britain and the U.S., old friends on the brutal end of the ISIS campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This isn't America vs. ISIL. It's the world vs. ISIL.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Plus, the NFL commissioner holds a mea culpa press conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER GOODELL, NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE COMMISSIONER: I will get it right and do whatever is necessary to accomplish that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: But is it just the players, or should we blame the game? Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe, former NFL safety Izell Reese, and "USA Today" sports columnist Christine Brennan join us.

And:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: The 44th president of the United States of America, Barack Obama!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: A kiss and a dis -- the nasty campaign against the chair of the Democratic Party. Our political roundtable is ready to roll.

This is STATE OF THE UNION. We begin with the latest pleas for mercy directed at people who

appear to have none. Still, the wife of British hostage Alan Henning is begging his ISIS captors to spare his life. And Muslim leaders in Britain have publicly declared that killing Henning is not permitted by Islamic law.

Law, order and even mercy may be on the agenda for world leaders gathering in New York this week. Does any of this make a difference to terrorists?

With me now, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Mr. Prime Minister, thanks for being with us.

TONY BLAIR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Pleasure, Candy.

CROWLEY: Let me start with the U.S.-led effort against ISIS and ask you what you think overall of the plan.

BLAIR: The president is absolutely right to take on ISIS and to build the broadest possible coalition. So, he and Secretary Kerry have put together, I think, right about 50 countries now as part of this coalition.

We have got absolutely no choice but to do this, and not just in order to contain and then destroy the onward march of ISIS, but also to send a very strong signal to the other terrorist groups operating in the region and beyond the region that we intend to take action and intend to see it through.

CROWLEY: So do you think this plan is going to do it? Basically, both the U.S. and Britain have -- the U.S. particularly has committed to aerial assaults in Iraq, for sure, in Syria possibly later on. It seems your country is moving that way, both ruling out putting combat troops on the ground. Is that enough to get rid of ISIS?

BLAIR: You certainly need to fight groups like ISIS on the ground. It is possible that those people who are there locally and who have the most immediate interest in fighting ISIS can carry on the ground offensive against them.

But, look, this will evolve over time, I'm sure, and I'm sure that the leadership both in the U.S. and elsewhere will make sure that whatever is necessary to defeat ISIS is done. I think, by the way, no one's talking -- there's no need to put in a kind of army of occupation. I mean, you're not rerunning Iraq or Afghanistan.

But I think there will undoubtedly be, over time, a need to hit ISIS not simply through an aerial campaign, but also on the ground. And the question will be, can those people, if they're supported locally, can they do the job or will we have to supplement that?

CROWLEY: Still an open question.

Let me talk to you about the heartbreak. We're now hearing another plea from yet another British family to ISIS, saying, please don't execute this man of peace. And we're also -- the heartbreak, it seems to me, particularly in Britain at this point must be worse, because we're pretty sure that the man who is murdering these people is also British.

Explain to me why so many British citizens seem to have joined up with ISIL, because Britain has one of these larger amounts of citizens that have gone over to join the fight in Syria with ISIS and others.

BLAIR: Well, first of all, the way these hostages are abused and subject to this grotesque form of public parade and then execution is just -- it's horrific, it's evil, and it's totally contrary to the principles of any form of religious faith.

The question you ask about how many British-born jihadists are going from Britain to fight in Syria, the estimates are several hundred have gone there. This is not, unfortunately, though, a problem just for Britain. Most European countries also have foreign fighters there.

Just a few weeks ago, there was a terrorist plot foiled in Norway from returning jihadist fighters from Syria. These are a small number of people. The broad mass of the Muslim community in the U.K. will be absolutely horrified and appalled by this and condemn it completely. But...

CROWLEY: Sure, but my question really is -- goes to the why, rather than the numbers...

BLAIR: Right.

CROWLEY: ... simply because, if you're sitting in Britain or you're sitting in the United States or you're sitting in Norway, life isn't -- from the outside, you think, life's not that bad. Why would you go join this war and behead people?

BLAIR: Right.

But this is an excellent question and one we have got to answer very clearly. I mean, these people aren't going because they're mistreated back in the U.K. They're given the benefit of a free education, free health care. They're given all the benefits of the freedom that comes living in a country like Britain.

These people are -- have been subject to an ideology that's come in from abroad that, unfortunately, is not just limited to Britain, but is right round the world today. It's an ideology based on a complete perversion of the proper faith of Islam, but it is powerful. It is proselytized and preached by people in mosques, in madrasas, not just in countries like Pakistan and parts of the Middle East and parts of Africa, but even back in parts of Britain.

And one of the things that we have got to look at as a country is, how do you root this kind of teaching out and make it absolutely clear that it is completely unacceptable to teach these forms of extremism, whether in a formal school setting or an informal school setting?

CROWLEY: I want to ask you about the -- one of the beheadings we saw, of David Haines, a British citizen. He gave a final statement. It was very much anti-West. We understand he was completely under duress, to put it mildly.

Nonetheless, he mentioned the name of Prime Minister Cameron. He also mentioned your name, saying this is your fault. And, again, we're hearing the terrorists' thoughts through David Haines, who was very much under duress.

I want to know personally, when you hear your name and saying, you brought this on, this is why -- you came to Iraq, you're bombing Muslims, personally, how does that affect you?

BLAIR: It makes me even more determined to take these people on and beat them.

I mean, the hideous nature of parading someone you're about to execute, and they have to make these statements condemning -- condemning the West and say it's all the fault of the West, you know, we have just got to realize that that is simply an expression of how completely divorced from any type of proper human compassion these people are, and why it is absolutely necessary to take them on and to beat them.

CROWLEY: So, plain and simple, you have described the threat in much the same way that a lot of global leaders particularly in the West have described it publicly. Over here, we have certainly heard the defense secretary say this is the worst enemy that we have faced, this is just a very high risk.

And yet the reaction is, we are going to do aerial assaults, but, you know, despite this global threat, despite the fact that everybody is seeing it everywhere, we can't, we can't put troops on the ground.

Was it a mistake for your country and our country to say, but, you know, it's -- we're not going to put U.S. troops on the ground?

BLAIR: I mean, I think policy is in a state of evolution.

And, by the way, it's perfectly natural, Candy, that that happens. We have been through very difficult campaigns, as I know, in Iraq and Afghanistan, where we had major forces on the ground...

CROWLEY: Right.

BLAIR: ... actually occupying parts of countries.

The public, both your way and my way, has a fatigue with that type of campaign, perfectly understandably and naturally. However, it's now very obvious, from Syria, from Libya, from everything that's happening in the world, that this problem isn't going away. And I think you will find that the policy undergoes a process of evolution, where people realize, in different situations, you're having different strategies. And there may be situations in which we are prepared to use

combat force. There may be other situations in which we can support others to do that. In any event, there are a whole series of things around intelligence sharing, around airpower, where we can have a huge impact.

The most important thing -- and this is -- this is, I think, one of the advantages and opportunities of the situation President Obama is in now -- there is today, I think, for the first time -- and this is still work in progress, but there is today a huge understanding as well within the Arab world and within majority Muslim countries that this is their fight as much, if not more, than ours, and that they're prepared to work with us in order to defeat this extremism.

CROWLEY: Mr. Prime Minister, I want you to stick with me.

I have to squeeze in a quick break, but, when we come back, I want to ask you exactly who those countries are in the Middle East and what you think they are willing to provide in this fight against ISIS.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: We are back with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Mr. Prime Minister, let me -- let me start where we left off. And that is countries in the region that are going to be helpful. And you have said in print and here that there are many people, and we need to help them.

Where's Turkey? Where's the UAE? Where's Saudi Arabia? Will they be on the ground? Because, really, in so many ways, they are under a much more immediate and geographic threat than the U.S. or Britain.

BLAIR: I think the Arab countries, Egypt, Jordan, the Gulf states, I think they are prepared to take action now. Whether that actually means...

CROWLEY: What does that mean? Yes.

BLAIR: Well, whether that actually means putting people on the ground in these situations, that's an open question.

But, as I say, this is a policy and indeed a coalition that is evolving. I mean, you will find there's a -- there will be a lot of debate and argument. I personally think that if these countries believe that we have now put together a comprehensive strategy as to how we deal with the problems of the region, which obviously has a huge implication then beyond the region as well, I feel that they will take steps today that they would not have contemplated a few years back.

CROWLEY: In our final moments, I want to ask you about two other countries and their position on terrorism and ISIS.

The first is Iran. I want to read you a lead out of Reuters today, which says, "Iran is ready to work with the United States and its allies to stop Islamic State militants, but would like to see more flexibility on Iran's uranium enrichment program, senior Iranian officials told Reuters."

So it's now kind of a bargaining chip with Iran, which, by the way, is as threatened by ISIS as anybody, as they're right next door. So now they're looking for some leniency from the U.S. in these talks about its uranium enrichment. Is Iran going to be helpful or not in the fight against ISIS?

BLAIR: I don't know.

But I do know that there will be no question of trading off, you know, support against ISIS for a loosened attitude on Iran and nuclear weapons. Iran with a nuclear bomb would be a very bad idea in the region. And the problem -- look, I can't tell whether Iran is undergoing a process of change. Maybe it is. And I'm completely in favor of exploring that.

CROWLEY: Now, let me ask you about Russia, because I know that, in your position, you certainly deal with the U.S. and Russia on matters concerning the Middle East, particularly Israel and the Palestinians.

So now there is this huge gulf between the United States and Russia because of Russia's aggression in Ukraine and its downright takeover of Crimea. Prior to this, the U.S. had said, well, we really hope that the Russians can be useful in Syria, since they are friends of Assad. We really hope they can be useful in Iran and pressuring Iran to give up its uranium enrichment program.

Has that all now gone away because -- and can we not expect Russia to be helpful in the fight against terrorism?

BLAIR: Well, it's a good question.

I mean, I -- I think, in respect of the Ukraine, the West has got to stick to the very tough position it has outlined. And again, you know, there should be no question of trading policy here. On the other hand, the truth is that Russia has an enormous interest in fighting Islamic extremism. Almost 20 percent of the Russian population today is Muslim.

CROWLEY: Right.

BLAIR: They -- they have real pockets of extremism. And, actually, other Eastern powers, if you like, China, India, also face this problem.

So, I think it is possible that, on this issue to do with Islamic extremism, it is possible to find common ground and to cooperate. But I don't think it will or should impinge on the Western attitude towards what Russia is doing in Ukraine. CROWLEY: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you so much for talking us --

with us this morning. We appreciate it.

BLAIR: Thanks very much, Candy.

CROWLEY: Up next, the NFL issues, blame the game or just a blame game?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: This season, football Sunday means a discussion about more than football. At what point should the NFL say "You need to go away" to players accused of abusing the women or children in their lives?

With me now, NFL Hall of Fame player Shannon Sharpe, former player and current youth mentor Izell Reese, and sports columnist Chris Brennan.

Thank you all for being here.

Shannon, let me bring you into the conversation. We're sorry you can't be at the table, but glad you showed up in Atlanta and ask...

SHANNON SHARPE, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Thanks for having.

CROWLEY: ... ask you what you thought of Roger Goodell's performance on Friday.

SHARPE: Well, the NFL is in business to make money. They're not equipped to really handle crisis management and societal issues.

It's easy to say -- and all these people that second-guess Roger Goodell, they have the luxury of hindsight. They have the luxury of saying what he should have done after he's done what he did.

Could he have handled that situation a lot better? Absolutely. I think from top to bottom, it could have been handled a lot better. And when you look at the Baltimore Ravens, they could have done -- could have handled their aspect of the situation a lot better.

But, when we look at it, for me, whether or not -- and I don't believe commissioner Roger Goodell saw that video. I don't believe anyone in the Ravens organization saw that video, because I do believe Ray Rice told them what had happened in that elevator.

So, for me, all that did was -- showing the video and seeing it highlighted what we already know. See, when I read something in the paper, Candy, I don't need to have a video of it, because I understand what transpired. And so I think a lot of people are looking at it and say, oh, it's worse than what it was.

No, we saw two healthy people walk into an elevator. Ten seconds later, the elevator door opens, and one healthy person is dragging an unconscious one that's laying unconscious on the elevator floor.

CROWLEY: Sure.

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPE: So, he could have handled it a lot better than what he did, but I don't think this is a fireable offense.

CROWLEY: So -- yes, but, first, there -- can Goodell survive? And I'm not sure we know that quite yet, because we don't know what's next.

SHARPE: That's right.

CROWLEY: We also know that ESPN has done a very in-depth look at what they say went on from sources, saying, actually, upper Ravens management did see the video.

But, setting all that aside, because we're not sure how this is going to crank out, did he do enough to begin to settle this down?

IZELL REESE, FORMER NFL PLAYER: No.

I think that -- and going back to Shannon as well, I think this is something that's been going on in years past. So knowing that he's looking to put a committee together, he's trying to put things in place, the clock is ticking. And you -- you have been away for a week. Nobody's heard from you. You should have said more. You should have been more deliberate, more passionate about it, and gave more details about what you expect to do.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, "USA TODAY": It was a missed opportunity. The NFL is doing some things.

Now, I have been as critical as anyone of what's been going on. It's horrible. Roger Goodell's apologizing more than any commissioner in the history of sports, as he should. He has a lot to apologize for. But they have brought in some very powerful women. Why weren't they up on the stage?

Why wasn't there a detailed analysis, maybe a PowerPoint, of exactly what they're doing? As you know, Candy, they have already funded a domestic hot line -- domestic violence hot line. They just announced that the other day. Why aren't they trumpeting that?

The notion that we're working on it and somewhere down the road, that's not going to be a good answer for this country at this moment, as we're roiled up on this issue.

CROWLEY: Yes. I have said they seem to be playing in that nightly news, morning paper world, when this is a Twitterverse world. And you can't, you know, assume that people are going to kind of move on at this point.

SHARPE: Well, guys, can...

CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.

SHARPE: Candy, can I say this?

Can we agree on one thing? Domestic violence did not happen for the very first time February of 2014. Ray Rice is not the first known abuser or batterer, whatever term you want to use with him. So, for all of a sudden, the NFL to try and resolve a societal problem, I think that's asking a bit much, because that's not what the NFL was constructed to do.

The 32 owners elected Roger Goodell to make them as much money as he possibly could. Now, in the process, sometimes through great adversity, great change can happen. And I hope that since this has become such a hot button issue, we can help -- we can help society bridge the gap and help guys understand, you can't -- you can't do what you have been doing to women, you can't batter children, and the old way of thinking as far as disciplining your child, well, this is the way I was disciplined, we know that's not acceptable now.

CROWLEY: Right.

SHARPE: As a child, I was left in a hot car for hours. But we know we can't do that now. You can't wash a child's mouth out with soap if he says a bad word.

We understand that, so I think, as we know better, we should be doing better.

CROWLEY: And, you know, Rich Lowry made the point in Politico in a column sometime this week when he said, even if the NFL is spectacularly successful in helping bring this issue to the fore and clamping down on it in the NFL, it's still just a sports league. "More specifically, it is a business that stages violent spectacles that will damage the brains of some significant portions of its participants. We really should not be expecting it to set our society's standards."

Are we asking too much of the NFL?

BRENNAN: Well, I think -- I think yes and no.

I think we need to be aware that, obviously, Major League Baseball, where is their plan on this, the NHL, NBA? This -- you know, wait until -- I hope it never happens...

CROWLEY: Hollywood.

BRENNAN: Wait -- but wait until the first one of those athletes gets arrested, and then watch what happens there.

We are learning about this. This is, again, not for a moment exonerating Roger Goodell and the National Football League, because it's in their house and they have to deal with it, and they're leaders, and they're our biggest pro sport league. And that's just the reality of their situation.

But this is societal. And, as I think we all agree, this is a great opportunity to lead... REESE: Yes.

BRENNAN: ... and not to drop the ball, to use an analogy, but also to understand that this is societal, and it's so much bigger than the National Football League.

And, also, the social media world that we're in, everything now is instant. The next controversy, we will see this kind of ember to forest fire within a couple seconds.

CROWLEY: Izell, what about the concept -- and I think Shannon sort of alluded to this -- that how much is too much? Like, how -- if -- if Ray Rice is going through what the courts required him to do, should he be banned for life, or is there a concept of second chances?

Is this -- like, when they go to do the rules of here's how the NFL's going to handle it, should it be like, you are out?

REESE: I don't think so.

I think -- I mean, we're dealing with a major issue here, even with Ray Rice and the multiple cases that are here. But I think, as long as this is being addressed, if he can remedy the situation, if he can really deal with it and become an advocate, I think you have got to look at his actions as well. And it's going to be up to a team.

If the opportunity is there, I do think a team would take Ray Rice if he's in -- healthy, if he's in shape. But I think, if he does his time and does what he's supposed to do, I think he does have a chance to remedy this situation, if he handles it right and addresses things with his wife right.

CROWLEY: Shannon, let me -- let me ask you something, because I know, over the course of your career, there had been civil complaints from women suggesting that you had been violent towards them.

SHARPE: Yes.

CROWLEY: Tell me where you believe -- and there was also another issue after you -- post-football that you were -- a case completely dropped, et cetera.

Tell me where you think the line is for the NFL.

SHARPE: Well...

CROWLEY: If you are charged with something, should they say, OK, you're benched until you figure this out? Go ahead.

SHARPE: Candy, let me address those issues.

And it's common -- it's common knowledge. If you Google it or however you go about it, there are 10 complaints against me. Eight of those complaints were child modification. That was where my kids' parents wanted -- wanted to -- in addition to the money that they were already receiving. CROWLEY: Right.

SHARPE: So they weren't complaints that I was battering someone.

I had a very similar situation to what Adrian Peterson had, my son took something, I asked him not to do it, he did it anyway, and took it to a place I told him not to take it. I asked him what he had in his pocket and he lied. So when I checked his pockets I found what I shouldn't have found because I've asked -- I asked him to leave it at home. I spanked him.

He told -- he called his mom. He told his mom I spanked him for no reason. She came over and she ended up calling the cops and the cops came out and Atlanta P.D. came out. They didn't file a report. He told her that Mr. Sharpe just wants to you leave his property. Well, she wasn't satisfied with the result she got, she ended up going to another entity and then subsequently I was ended up arrested, no -- charges were dropped.

CROWLEY: Right.

SHARPE: But here is the thing, Candy. I get it, there's a very, very fine line between child abuse and discipline.

And what's acceptable when I grew up, what you did determined how you got disciplined and what you got disciplined with. Whether it was a hose pipe or a bull whip or a belt or a broomstick, extension cord. Switches were the least of your problems but if you did something that my grandparents thought you deserved the harshest punishment, that's what you got.

(CROSSTALK)

I wouldn't change my background, but I understood and I had kids, there's no possible way I could raise them how I was reared.

CROWLEY: Right.

Let me ask you, Chris, because you're hearing this and hearing his side of these stories, but this is a lightning fast news cycle, as you mentioned. Could someone who had similar things happen have survived and gone on, by the way, to be a hall of famer on "CBS Sports" et cetera?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, "USA TODAY": I'm not so sure.

I think, Shannon, you were lucky that this happened, whatever the story is, when it did. If it happened now you probably wouldn't be playing today, and that's the reality.

I'm not saying that's bad or good. In fact I think it's good. Knowledge is a good thing.

And I think to have this knowledge, Candy, to be aware of this is important, to see the videos, it's important, it's a national conversation. Once again sports takes us to this place, it's exactly where we

need to be as a society in 2014, but that kind of stuff wouldn't have sat well to your point in this Twitterverse, no way, no how.

CROWLEY: The demand is to move quickly.

IZELL REESE, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Absolutely.

I mean, going to the Ray Rice and you just look at it. And me, personally, I mean, I'm a father. I have two beautiful children, I wouldn't lay a finger, but that's the way I was raised.

And honestly, me, personally, you wouldn't have to suspend me. I would have walked away from the game because this is such a big issue and such a big issue personally. I think we got to address it. We've got to acknowledge it. And as men, I think as men -- and I think that's where Goodell has to stand up, I think that's where NFL players -- because this is not the majority that we're dealing with here.

CROWLEY: Right.

REESE: But it appears that way because -

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: That's what's making the news. OK. I have --

SHARPE: Candy, can I add -- let me add one thing, Candy.

CROWLEY: Yes.

SHARPE: One size does not fit all.

What works for Izell's kids and so -- and Christine, if you have kids, what works for them, maybe you can sit them down, maybe you can put them in time-out, maybe you take away their favorite toy. That might not work for my kids.

So, to say well, this is the only way you can discipline by giving time-out or taking away their favorite toy, that's not right.

And the reason why people try to stay out of other people's homes is for that very reason. That's why domestic violence has gone on so long unmonitored. That's why the abuse situation has gone on so long unfettered, because people really try and stay out of other people's homes.

CROWLEY: I think one of the things we've learned from lots of cameras in elevators, et cetera, is it's really hard to turn a blind eye to some of this stuff.

Shannon Sharpe, thank you so much. Izell Reese, thank you. Chris Brennan, good to see you.

SHARPE: Thanks for having me, guy.

CROWLEY: Next, this week's jaw-dropping moment in politics.

The party of women slamming the woman who is supposed to be in- charge. We'll ask our political panel who is behind the backstabbing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: The chairwoman of the Democratic Party is finding herself the target of some particularly vicious backstabbing through the use of unnamed sources in the Washington way.

Around the table media and politics strategist, Tara Wall, "CROSSFIRE" co-host, Newt Gingrich, Marc Lamont Hill of "Huff Post Live," and Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile.

So, "Politico" did a piece about Democrats' turn on Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

In the end the conclusion was basically, "Being DNC chair is a major political opportunity. The knock on Wasserman Schultz isn't that she's taking advantage of these relationships but that she appears to be planning her personal political rise while also trying to lead the party."

Who would have thought it? A politician plotting their own political rise while in another job.

MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: How stunning.

CROWLEY: I'll tell you what stunned me was the attack was, I thought, pretty vicious in Washington standards and it was that old woman thing.

She wants us to pay for her clothes so it makes it look heavy.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Which wasn't true by the way.

Look, the last chair of the Democratic Party Tim Kaine went on to be United States senator. Previous chair, Chair McCullough, now the governor of Virginia. Of course, I can talk about, you know, Ed Rendell, former mayor, governor of Pennsylvania.

There's nothing wrong with being ambitious. What I didn't like about the article, of course, is not just the timing but the nature of the attacks, the personal attacks.

Look, I'm vice chair of the party and I turned the gavel over to Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She's done a phenomenal job in reducing the deficit. We have no deficit now. She took over part (ph) of the head (ph) of deficit --

CROWLEY: Meaning the party.

BRAZILE: The Democratic National Committee doesn't have a deficit.

She has expanded our digital program. She has revamped old programs. She has been able --

CROWLEY: So, why -- what's her big sin here?

BRAZILE: Big sin?

CROWLEY: Well, what did she do to deserve this big hit?

BRAZILE: Well, you live and breathe in Washington, D.C., and you don't have a political enemy out there, somebody who's willing to attack you?

CROWLEY: Lots of them, the Hill, the White House.

BRAZILE: I think she's done a great job.

TARA WALL, MEDIA AND POLITICAL STRATEGIST: I think this goes beyond political enemies.

I think it's clear that there is a disconnect between Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the White House, no matter who says it. I think it's clear they've distanced themselves in some ways from the DNC chair and I think for a number of reasons.

I think her leadership probably has been called into question many times and certainly I don't have all the insight that Donna has. But I think to say, you know, from a fundraising standpoint to speak, you know, the RNC outrages the DNC. They have consistently outraised the DNC. So, I think there are some legitimate concerns with people who probably have some angst.

I think --

CROWLEY: The White House is saying she hasn't raised enough money.

WALL: Right -

CROWLEY: They're say she wants clothing and she's a Prima Donna. And she's --

HILL: We saw the same thing with Sarah Palin. We see the same thing now.

It's often a gender-based is assault. And that's what I find so troublesome about this.

Might they be critics of Debbie Wasserman Schultz perhaps but ultimately she's been a great leader.

WALL: It's not gender-based because -- I would argue there are issues where it's gender based but in this case there was a starkly different relationship with Tim Kaine and the White House and George Bush and the RNC chairman. It's a leader -- there's a -

(CROSSTALK)

HILL: The staffers are so willing to go to --

WALL: But the staffers --

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: People in the White House --

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Let me -- let me get Newt to explain the whole thing to us.

NEWT GINGRICH, CNN CROSSFIRE HOST: Well, first of all, it's fair to say that Reince Priebus in August raised 40 percent more than Debbie Wasserman Schultz did. So, there's a certain amount of money difference.

But there are a couple big things here. One, she, you know, nobody in the White House staff can say, gee, our Syria policy is not working, our Iraq policy is not working, our Ukraine policy is not working, our health care policy is not working, our economy policy is not working. I guess, it's the president (ph) fault. So, instead they say, we're in real trouble, which there are.

It must be a scapegoat. She's a pretty good scapegoat. But what's amazing is, you know, she could leave with one phone call. I mean, she serves at the president's approval.

BRAZILE: Yes.

GINGRICH: Now, here's a president who has red lines you can't meet in Syria, red lines you can't meet in Iraq, red lines you can't meet in Ukraine. You apparently can't meet a red line with his own DNC chair. If he's unhappy --

HILL: How would it be to do it right now?

GINGRICH: If you're a Democrat and you wake up, having been on the candidate bed in '74 and '76 in Georgia, I can tell you, you wake up and your headline this morning is, your party chair maybe should be fired pause she wants to buy expensive clothing. That doesn't move --

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: That way kind of conversation.

(CROSSTALK)

She leads a very diverse party from Elizabeth Warren to Joe Manchin, a conservative United States senator, to Jerry Brown and soon Anthony, Brown a governor of Maryland. She leads a very diverse party. And yes, there will be tensions but you know what at the end of the day Debbie's job is to go out there and help Democrats win. And that's what -

(CROSSTALK) WALL: Telling at the end of the day.

So, first of all the other -- to pick up on part of that point is it is problematic when you don't -- when you're not in regular strategy sessions with the White House, with the president. And in a way that she's admitted -- she is in on a regular basis.

CROWLEY: Yes. But it's -

(CROSSTALK)

WALL: Number two -- number two, let me finish my thought.

Number two is when it comes to midterms I think at the end of the day that will be the most telling case when we -- and we see the shifts already that are in Republicans' favor, you know, there is a still a lot of time between now and then. But I think -

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Wait, wait, wait.

WALL: I think that's going to be a very telling for -- for the White House standpoint.

CROWLEY: I thought you guys would have a quick thing to say and we'd move on. OK. Now we're moving on.

I want it -- because I have been noticing the ads locally here in Maryland, the Senate race and the congressional race in Virginia. Now, we're seeing some others run.

I want to just play some quick bites from some ads and then I'll ask you something on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rick Scott wants to take away a woman's right to choose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman Gardner led a crusade that would make birth control illegal and sponsored a bill to make abortion a felony.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hogan opposes a women's right to choose. He wants to ban abortions even in cases of rape and incest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Barbara Comstock even voted with right wing Republicans to require seeking an abortion to undergo transvaginal ultrasounds. That's all I need to know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: All Democrats ads, all aimed at Republicans, all about social issues. I didn't know that abortion was on anybody's -- when you ask voters it's not -- why are they doing it? GINGRICH: They have nothing left. Look, "The Wall Street

Journal" -- "The Wall Street Journal" reported this week that Republicans now lead among white women by 48 to 40. Now, that is in a congressional year. That is a catastrophic number for the Democratic Party.

And so the same consultants filed back to the same old ads to try to make the same case and it's not going to work. The fact is, you go to the average woman and you say, tell me where this is on your list.

(CROSSTALK)

We look at Wendy Davis, the great hope in Texas and look what -- the fact is women care about the economy, they care about jobs, they care about security, they are about education. There are a ton of issues they care about. This is a long way down on that list.

BRAZILE: Let me say this, news flash, we have not done well with white women in previous election cycles. We've done well with women of color and we've won the gender gap because we have (INAUDIBLE)...

(CROSSTALK)

...that first.

HILL: Democrat.

BRAZILE: Single white women. But look, the truth is that we are talking about equal pay. We're talking about raising the minimum wage.

And the reason why this --

(CROSSTALK)

WALL: Single white women is about dead even right now.

BRAZILE: And you know what? We'll get them back, don't worry.

Here's the reason why this ad is important it's because Republicans are the ultimate hypocrites when it comes to birth control and reproductive rights. They have supported the personhood amendment, they tried to shut down the government on healthcare which allowed contraception. And now they are saying, we support birth control over-the-counter.

We don't mind you having birth control.

(CROSSTALK)

WALL: I think --

BRAZILE: And that's why -- what this is about.

WALL: I think -- I think -- HILL: This isn't a Hail Mary in the 12th hour. This is a

response to Republicans attempting to move toward the center extensively for a midterm election purposes to seem more reasonable on this issue.

But when you accompany this with the paycheck fairness act which (INAUDIBLE), you realize that women really need to be reminded -- not reminded but women are being encouraged by the Democratic Party to vote these issues.

(CROSSTALK)

WALL: Look, I think it's -- I think it's unfortunate when any candidate on either side of the aisle uses divisive ads like this to divide groups like women who should -

(CROSSTALK)

And pander to women who should know better.

When women -- when everyday women are not sitting at the table talking about the government taking away birth control, abortion, the top ten issues -- look, this is what Republicans should do in these cases when those come up. These are, number one, these are -- these are groups that are pushing these issues.

These candidates should be talking about what matters to women, to go to Newt's point.

And this is my -- this would be my recommendation from a media perspective, the optics in everything for Republicans is to take the fact that 55 percent of all women right now disapprove of the job that the president's doing, so you start with that, and tell them why they disapprove. And it has nothing to do with --

(CROSSTALK)

And it has nothing to do -

BRAZILE: Because they have no alternative to criticize in President Obama. That's all you talk about.

CROWLEY: OK, so I told you not to talk so much.

(LAUGHTER)

(INAUDIBLE) people, next time you listen to me. We have to go thank you so much.

WALL: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Tara wall, Marc Lamont Hill, Newt Gingrich, Donna Brazile, come back or stay here. We'll continue --

WALL: We'll keep the conversation going.

CROWLEY: Next up, an 87-year-old ex-governor, ex-con, newly wed with a baby wants another shot.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Louisiana Democrat Edwin Edwards has seen life from both sides now. Three terms in Congress beginning in the late '60s, four terms as Louisiana governor, and a 10-year term in federal prison for corruption. He's 87 now and looking for the ultimate comeback.

Here is CNN's Gloria Borger.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): We caught up with Edwin Edwards, the bad boy of Louisiana politics, in Baton Rouge, where he took us to Sunday church and down memory lane.

EDWIN EDWARDS (D), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I came up in the depression and I was 16 years old before Roosevelt sent electricity to my house.

BORGER: It's the story of a power broker who made good and fell from grace.

EDWARDS: I'm facing a very large, long prison term.

BORGER: Who once defeated a Klansman for governor.

EDWARDS: I said, well, the only similarity between us is we're both wizards under the sheet.

BORGER: And who gave his pal Bill Clinton some political advice he never took back in the '90s when the Gennifer Flowers scandal broke.

EDWARDS: I said, well, I tell you what I would say if I were you, I would simply say nobody has a 12-year torrid love affair. Twelve days maybe, maybe 12 weeks, but that's all I would say about it.

So, I'm not going to say that I said, well, I don't think you will but I would say it because people understand that kind of foolishness.

BORGER: As for Edwards, his most recent love story was love at first sight.

So, let me ask you, you read the book, you were captivated by this -- what drew you to the story of Edwin Edwards?

TRINA EDWARDS, WIFE OF EDWIN EDWARDS: It wasn't actually the book or the story, it was the response that I got when I would -- if I was somewhere reading the book, people would come up to me and say, I loved him. One time I had this problem and he helped. Or, one time my mom was going through this and he stopped what he was doing to see her and, you know, did a favor for her. And I got such an overwhelming response from people, and they were emotional about it. Like I couldn't understand what it was.

What?

And so I just had to see for myself, I guess.

BORGER: Eventually, they were married and had a baby, and their life together was all on camera as part of a reality show the Edwards say wasn't exactly real.

EDWARDS: You're only as young as the woman you feel, and brother, it's fun feeling her.

One scene they had us go into a friend's house to play poker and made us dresses, suits and ties. I said, this is Louisiana. We don't go to a poker game dressed up like we're going to a banquet. We're wearing jeans and shirts with long -- with short sleeves so we can't hide any cards. But they insisted that I wear a suit and a tie and the other guys thought it was crazy and, of course, thank goodness they didn't show that episode because I didn't want people to think that I was the kind of fellow that went to play poker in a suit and a tie.

I'm well-known, and that's good and it's bad.

BORGER: Now Edwards is gambling on a comeback.

EDWARDS: I don't think it could be construed as a redemption. Many people view it that way but that's not it at all. If I'm interested in that, the best thing I could do is fade off into the sunset and be forgotten, but that's not my role in life.

When I have energy, I have wisdom, I have maturity, and I tell people, look, if this is a footrace, they'd probably beat me, but this is a political race and I'll beat them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Edwards has an uphill climb in this heavily Republican district where he faces 12 or so opponents across the political spectrum. It's Louisiana, expect a runoff. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Thanks for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. Be sure to watch us each week at this time or set your DVR.

Fareed Zakaria, "GPS," starts right now.