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Interview With President Barack Obama; Interview With Arizona Senator John McCain; Race for 2016

Aired December 21, 2014 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Lame duck? Go tell that to President Obama, who's sounding and acting like a man on a mission.

Today: our exclusive with the president of the United States on Cuba, race, Guantanamo Bay prison, and North Korea's hack attack on Sony Pictures.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I don't think it was an act of war. I think it was an act of cyber-vandalism.


CROWLEY: Then: a response from the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It's more than vandalism. It's a new form of warfare.


CROWLEY: Plus, Brazile, Granderson, Walter, and Gingrich, the company I like to keep on Jeb Bush's debut week on the presidential campaign trail.

This is a special edition of "STATE OF THE UNION."

Good morning from Washington. I'm Candy Crowley.

We are monitoring the ambush killing of two New York City police officers by a gunman.

But, for now, we want to turn to President Obama, who heads into 2015 on what he considers a high note. At his year-end press conference Friday, he declared 2014 a breakthrough year for the country and said, by any metric, the U.S. resurgence is real.

But he got the most attention when he said Sony Pictures made a mistake in canceling the release of a movie after a cyber-attack by North Korea.

Before the president left for Christmas vacation in Hawaii, I spoke with him at the White House.


CROWLEY: First of all, happy holidays. Thank you for joining us. Appreciate it.

OBAMA: Happy holidays, Candy.

CROWLEY: I want to just start out talking about Sony and North Korea...

OBAMA: Right.

CROWLEY: ... because the chairman of Sony watched your news conference...

OBAMA: Right.

CROWLEY: ... and said he didn't think you understood what actually happened, that Sony was committed to putting the movie out, but the movie theaters came to them and said, yes, we're not going to run it, that he's not had a digital entity come to him to ask. He was asked, listen, how about putting it on YouTube? And he said maybe. He said he was kind of disappointed in what you said.

OBAMA: Well, look, I was pretty sympathetic to the fact that they have got business considerations they have got to -- they have got to make.

And, you know, had they talked to me directly about this decision, I might have called the movie theater chains and distributors and asked them what the story was.

But what I was laying out was a principle that I think this country has to abide by. We believe in free speech. We believe in the right of artistic expression and satire and things that powers that be might not like. And if we set a precedent in which a dictator in another country can disrupt, through cyber, you know, a company's distribution chain or its products, and, as a consequence, we start censoring ourselves, that's a problem.

And it's a problem not just for the entertainment industry. It's a problem for the news industry. CNN has done critical stories about North Korea. What happens if, in fact, there's a breach in CNN's, you know, cyberspace? Are we going to suddenly say, well, we better not report on North Korea?

So, the key here is not to suggest that Sony was a bad actor. It's making a broader point that all of us have to adapt to the possibility of cyber-attacks. We have to do a lot more to guard against them. My administration's taken a lot of strides in that direction, but we need Congress to pass a cyber-security law.

We have got to work with the private sector and the private sector has to work together to harden their sites. But, in the meantime, when there's a breach, we have to go after the wrongdoer. We can't start changing how we operate.

CROWLEY: I wonder if maybe it was fear of lawsuit, as opposed to fear of North Korea...

OBAMA: Which is possible.

CROWLEY: ... that if there's that threat right there, that the people are looking at their theater, thinking, you know, anything happens here, I'm done. It's over.

OBAMA: You know, that's possible.

But, look, as I said, the Boston Marathon suffered an actual grievous attack that killed and maimed a number of people. And that next year, we had as successful a Boston Marathon as we have ever had.

You know, sometimes, this is a matter of setting a tone and being very clear that we're not going to be intimidated by some, you know, cyber-hackers. And I expect all of us to remember that and operate on that basis going forward.

CROWLEY: Do you think this was an act of war by North Korea?

OBAMA: No, I don't think it was an act of war. I think it was an act of cyber-vandalism that was very costly, very expensive. We take it very seriously. We will respond proportionally, as I said.

But, you know, we're going to be in an environment in this new world where so much is digitalized that both state and nonstate actors are going to have the capacity to disrupt our lives in all sort of ways. We have to do a much better job of guarding against that.

We have to treat it like we would treat, you know, the incidents of crime in our countries. When other countries are sponsoring it, we take it very seriously. But that's something that I think we can manage through, as long as public, private sector is working together.

CROWLEY: So, let me move you on to the other big story that we have had, and that is your reach-out -- or Cuba's reach to you and your reach to Cuba.

Listening to the critics, part of this is, they wrap it up in how you dealt with other sort of bad actors. Oh, this is what he's done. He's accommodated Syria by not crossing the red line. He has accommodated Iran by talking to them on nuclear weapons. And, you know, sort of down the line, Russia, he's allowed Putin to move in and take Crimea.

And here's the gist of it. The gist of it is that you're naive and they're rolling you.


So, this was said about Mr. Putin, for example, three or four months ago. There was a spate of stories about how he was the chess master and outmaneuvering the West and outmaneuvering Mr. Obama and this and that and the other. And, right now, he's presiding over the collapse of his currency, a major financial crisis, and a huge economic contraction.

That doesn't sound like somebody who has rolled me or the United States of America. There is this knee-jerk sense, I think, on the part of some in the foreign policy establishment that shooting first and thinking about it second projects strength.

I disagree with that. We have been very firm with respect to those countries that we think are violating international law or are acting against our interests. But I have been consistent in saying that where we can solve problems diplomatically, we should do so.

You look at an example like Iran, over the last year-and-a-half, since we began negotiations with them, that's probably the first year- and-a-half in which Iran has not advanced its nuclear program in the last decade.

CROWLEY: And we know that for sure, that it's not...

OBAMA: And we know that. We -- that's not just verified by the United Nations and the IAEA and ourselves. Even critics of our policy, like the Netanyahu government in Israel, their intelligence folks have acknowledged that, in fact, Iran has not made progress.

So, Cuba offers us an example of an opportunity to try something different. For 50 years, we have tried to see if we can overthrow the regime through isolation. It hasn't worked. If we engage, we have the opportunity to influence the course of events at a time when there's going to be some generational change in that country.

And I think we should seize it. And I intend to do so.


CROWLEY: When we come back, the president talks about his unique background and racial tension in America.


CROWLEY: A gunman ambushed and killed two New York City police officers Saturday, before taking his own life. New York Police Commissioner William Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio said the officers were assassinated as they sat in their squad car.

President Obama issued a statement on the killings, which said, in part: "I unconditionally condemn today's murder of two police officers in New York City. Two brave men won't be going home to their loved ones tonight. And, for that, there is no justification."

The gunman indicated on social media he would target police officers in retaliation for the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

In my conversation with President Obama, I asked him about tensions between police and minorities and the state of race in America.


CROWLEY: I remember I -- I was watching you answer some Ferguson questions and some New York questions, and I just remembered back to the day when Reverend Wright gave a press conference at the press center.

OBAMA: Right.

CROWLEY: And you came and gave a very -- I thought you seemed angry, certainly upset, news conference, and were very forceful in pushing back on some things.

And a question that I think arises to me is, people say, well, he's in a very special position and so much is expected of him. And I thought, you know, do you think that you look at race matters somewhat differently because, yes, you're the first African-American president, but your mother was white, you were raised by your mother and your white grandparents?


CROWLEY: Does that give you a different perspective, do you think?

OBAMA: I think it probably does.

I wrote a whole book about this. And there's no doubt that I have moved back and forth between the racial divides, not just black- white, but Asian and Latino. And, you know, I have got a lot of cultural influences.

I think what it does do for me is to recognize that most Americans have good intentions. I said a little bit about this in a press conference earlier today. I assume the best, rather than the worst in others.

But it also makes me mindful of the fact that there's misunderstanding, there's mistrust, and there are biases, both overt and sometimes hidden, that operate in ways that disadvantage minority communities.

And that's a carryover. There's a long legacy in this country that has gotten enormously better, but is still there. And when you look at what's happened in law enforcement across the country over the last several years, that's not news to African-Americans.

What's different is simply that some of it is now videotaped and people see it. And the question then becomes, you know, what practical steps can we take to solve this problem? And I believe that the overwhelming majority of white Americans, as well as African- Americans, want to see this problem solved.

So I have confidence that, by surfacing these issues, we're going to be able to make progress on them. CROWLEY: I ask because I listened to Tavis Smiley talk about

your BET interview, and he said, the president should stop telling black people to wait. He should stop telling us that it takes time. He should stop saying it's different from 50 years ago. Go tell that to the parents of these dead children.

And I wonder, does that come into you? Does that hurt? Do you think, they don't get me? I mean, I feel like this is difficult, to be president of all the United States and yet have so much expected of you.

OBAMA: Oh, I -- you know, if I spent too much time worrying about critics, I would be not getting a lot of stuff done here.

You know, there's no reason for folks to be patient. I'm impatient. That's why, in the wake of what happened in Ferguson and what happened in New York, we have initiated a task force that, in 90 days, are going to be providing very specific recommendations.

On the other hand, I think an unwillingness to acknowledge that progress has been made cuts off the possibility of further progress. If critics want to suggest that America is inherently and irreducibly racist, then why bother even working on it?

I have seen change in my own life. So has this country. And those who would deny that, I think, actually foreclose the possibility of further progress, rather than advancing it.

CROWLEY: I have three quick questions that I think will be quick for you.

The first is, will Bowe Bergdahl face a court-martial?

OBAMA: You know, that's going to be up to our military justice system. That's not something that the commander in chief gets involved in.

CROWLEY: And you won't -- you won't weigh in on that?

OBAMA: I don't weigh in on it.

CROWLEY: Have you seen the report?

OBAMA: It's not something that I comment on or get involved with.

CROWLEY: I'm going to take that as a yes.

Will Guantanamo Bay prison be closed down by next -- end of next year?

OBAMA: I'm going to do everything I can to close it.

It is -- it is something that continues to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world, the fact that these folks are being held. It is contrary to our values, and it is wildly expensive. We're spending millions for each individual there.

And we have drawn down the population there significantly. There are a little less than 150 individuals left in this facility. We are going to continue to place those who have been cleared for release or transfer to host countries that are willing to take them.

There's going to be a certain irreducible number that are going to be really hard cases, because, you know, we know they have done something wrong and they are still dangerous, but it's difficult to mount the evidence in a traditional Article III court.

So, we're going to have to wrestle with that. But we need to close that facility. And I'm going to do everything I can.

CROWLEY: Right. You want them here in a supermax, right? That hasn't changed?

OBAMA: I think that it does not make sense for us to spend millions of dollars per individual, when we have a way of solving this problem that's more consistent with our values.

CROWLEY: And, finally, will you put North Korea back on the list of states that sponsor terrorism, and will you take Cuba off?

OBAMA: We're going to review those through a process that's already in place.

We have got very clear criteria as to what it means for a state to sponsor terrorism. And we don't make those judgments just based on the news of the day. We look systematically at what's been done. And, based on those facts, we will make those determinations in the future.

CROWLEY: And that -- do you lean a direction of those, it seems, given what North Korea -- what we know North Korea has done in terms of its cyber-attacks?

OBAMA: I will wait to review what -- what the findings are.

CROWLEY: And it would be hard to have relationships with Cuba, wouldn't it, if they were still on the terrorist...


OBAMA: I think so, but -- but we will take a look at it.

In the meantime, Candy, I want to say, congratulations on an extraordinary career.

CROWLEY: Thank you very much.

OBAMA: The -- you will be missed, but I'm sure you will be doing some interesting stuff in the future. And I hope we get a chance to interact again.

CROWLEY: I hope so too. I think so. I appreciate your time. Happy holidays to all of you.

OBAMA: Happy holidays.

CROWLEY: All right.

OBAMA: Happy new year.

CROWLEY: Thank you.

OBAMA: You bet.


CROWLEY: Next up, a Republican rebuttal: Senator John McCain on the U.S. response to North Korea, closing Gitmo, and whether the president is getting rolled.


CROWLEY: Joining me now, Senator John McCain, who will, when he comes back to Washington in January and the new Congress is sworn in, become the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

So, speaking in that soon-to-be role, Senator, I want to talk to you about a couple of things that the president said in this interview.

The first, I just want to remind you and our audience what he said about the North Korean attack on Sony in cyberspace.


OBAMA: No, I don't think it was an act of war. I think it was an act of cyber-vandalism that was very costly, very expensive. We take it very seriously. We will respond proportionally.


CROWLEY: Cyber-vandalism, what do you make of that?

MCCAIN: I think, again, the president does not understand that this is a new -- this is a manifestation of a new form of warfare.

When you destroy economies, when you are able to impose censorship on the world, and especially the United States of America, it's more than vandalism. It's a new form of warfare that we're involved in. And we need to react, and react vigorously, including reimposing sanctions that were lifted under the Bush administration, including other actions that will squeeze them more economically.

But, most of all, we have to really work together with the president and the Congress to come up with counters and abilities to respond, but, more importantly, to prevent. There have been cyber- attacks from China that have betrayed some of our most important -- hacking which has betrayed some of our most important military secrets.

We have identified a building in Beijing that's run by the People's Liberation Army that are -- we have lost billions of dollars in industrial capabilities and secrets that have been transferred through this.

This is a new form of warfare. We need to work. And we need to harness the best minds in America, including some of those out in Silicon Valley, to help us devise ways of countering this.

CROWLEY: Makes me wonder if the U.S. isn't really late to this table, and why is that?

MCCAIN: You know, part of it is because we haven't been able to work more closely together.

Part of it is because where -- it's very hard to determine where national security ends and personal privacy begins. This is a continuing debate that we have. I have been -- Candy, I have been to more meetings on cyber than any other issue in my time in the Congress with less accomplished than any other.

And it's time we sat down together. And, again, that's one reason why I think we -- maybe we need some outside experts, the people who are really in the whole issue of the Internet and these capabilities, that, frankly, maybe that expertise is not in the Congress or even in Washington, D.C.

CROWLEY: Is my bank account at risk for hacking from the Chinese or the North Koreans? Is the water system, you know, which we know the infrastructure of the U.S., the electricity, are all those things as at risk as Sony was?

MCCAIN: I believe that they are at risk.

Now, whether there's that capability or not is questionable, but, over time, they're bound to have that capability. This is not vandalism. It is a new form of warfare. And we have to counter with that form of warfare with a better form of warfare.

CROWLEY: Secondly, I want to talk to you about Guantanamo Bay prison.

You have said previously that you would help the president find a way to close it. I asked him whether he thought he could get Guantanamo Bay, all the prisoners out, and close it by the end of next year.


OBAMA: There's going to be a certain irreducible number that are going to be really hard cases, because, you know, we know they have done something wrong and they are still dangerous, but it's difficult to mount the evidence in a traditional Article III court.

So, we're going to have to wrestle with that. But we need to close that facility.


CROWLEY: How can you help this president close Guantanamo Bay?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, the president continues to violate the law.

He did in the Bergdahl case, which required notification of Congress. He just did on Cuba, that he continues to act in the most imperial fashion. And this was the president who ran on an open and transparent presidency.

It's very disappointing. He's taken a very different approach to dealing with Congress in light of the defeat in the last election. His predecessors, Republican and Democrat, when suffering defeat in the second part and era of their presidency, have always reached out. The president has gone exactly the opposite direction.

I always wanted to close Guantanamo, but I wanted to transfer those prisoners to maximum security prisons, prisons in the United States of America. That the president has never had a plan for that -- and he didn't mention to you that some 27 percent or 30 percent of these people we have released have reentered the fight.

It's -- it's outrageous to release people that are going to reenter the fight and try to kill Americans and attack America.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you finally, I said to the president that, on Cuba, that he has been accused by his critics, including you and others, that this is just another -- he's just getting rolled, that his naivete once again has led him to try to open relationships with a dictator who doesn't deserve it.

He answered me by talking about Putin, saying you hear the exact same thing about Putin. Here's what he said.


OBAMA: There was a spate of stories about how he was the chess master and outmaneuvering the West and outmaneuvering Mr. Obama and this and that and the other. And, right now, he's presiding over the collapse of his currency, a major financial crisis, and a huge economic contraction.

That doesn't sound like somebody who has rolled me or the United States of America.


CROWLEY: What did you think?


MCCAIN: I think that -- that it's bizarre to think that any action on the part of the president of the United States has proved any deterrence to Vladimir Putin.

We won't even give defensive weapons to the Ukrainians. We -- President Obama and we should be thanking the Saudis, who have allowed the value of a barrel of oil to go to the point where it's affecting dramatically Vladimir Putin's economy. It has nothing to do with any action taken by the president of the United States.

CROWLEY: You don't think the economic sanctions have done any of that?

MCCAIN: They have had almost no effect, until the price of oil continued to sink.

In fact, those sanctions have had very little effect. And Vladimir Putin's popularity in his country is still incredibly high. And there has been no relaxation or drawback from Vladimir Putin's part as a result of this.

CROWLEY: Senator, what do you -- what is your big opposition to looking at relaxing relationships with Cuba?

You, more than anyone, had, you know, a lot of reasons not to support, let's say, normalization of relations with Vietnam, but you supported that. Fifty years, 50 years, this has been -- this -- these embargoes, and it hasn't done anything, why not try it?

MCCAIN: Well, because we've shown no progress. We are rewarding Cuba for the kind of behavior that's characterized both Castro brothers. There are some 70 people who are in Cuba who have fled the United States or in the case of one who shot a New Jersey and killed a trooper in New Jersey.

CROWLEY: Sure, but isn't that the point? Is that not his point, his point is after 50 years of the same policy, they haven't done anything. Why not try something else?

MCCAIN: Well, because we would be rewarding the failure that they haven't done anything. If they had shown some progress, I think maybe that it would be what we are doing is endorsing their 50 years of oppression and repression in Cuba. And that, in my view, would encourage others.

CROWLEY: That will get you a couple of political questions here, the first is you said the president hasn't shown...


CROWLEY: ...any signs of changing, and yet, he called Democrats on the House side against House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and said, you need to vote for this budget, and we need to get it passed. So, he actively worked against something that the leadership and the House wanted, in order to get a budget deal with Republicans. Is that not reaching across the aisle?

MCCAIN: Well, what I think it's disciplining his members of his party, including former speaker Pelosi, the Democratic leader. So, I think it's more of an internal struggle with the Democrats more than it is working with Republicans.

CROWLEY: But he got a deal with Republicans, he got a budget deal with you guys.

MCCAIN: Well, but there was never any sit down with Republicans as that was being put together. There has not been any outreach of any kind that I know of from the White House to Republicans, no matter where they are, and I think Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have continued to state that.

CROWLEY: Put on your strategist hat and tell me how you think on the Republican side 2016 will play out.

MCCAIN: I think for the first time, Candy, you may see national security as a maybe since the end of the cold war a much larger role, particularly in the Republican Party where we have really some strong differences of policy outlook on America's role in the world. It's sort of a traditional conflict that's gone on within our party, but it's -- but because of the world we live in today, I think national security will play a much greater role in affecting the views of the voters. And that -- I think that's going to make it much more interesting in some respects.

And so therefore, you may see greater divisions from people like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and people on the other side like Rand Paul and others. So, I think you may see that kind of debate play a much greater role in this upcoming nomination fight.

CROWLEY: Wow. Doesn't that sort of make the case for a former secretary of state on the Democratic side?

MCCAIN: Well, I think it makes a case that the question needs to be raised is, what did the secretary of state on the other side accomplish as secretary of state? And I think the results were not very appealing to the average American.

CROWLEY: Senator John McCain, I hope you have a wonderful holiday, a happy New Year. See you back in Washington.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: Speaking of elections, since 1972, the Republican Party has not won the presidency without a Bush on the ticket. Is Jeb Bush the answer in 2016? Our political panel is next.


CROWLEY: A signal this week that Republican voters will be seeing the name Bush on their presidential primary ballots come 2016.

Joining me around the table, four of my favorites. CNN commentator L.Z. Granderson, CNN political commentator, Newt Gingrich, Amy Walter, national editor "The Cook Political Report," and Donna Brazile, CNN political commentator. I'm so glad you all are here.

So, George Bush, see, this is going to be confusing... (LAUGHTER)

...I'm telling you right now. Jeb Bush announces on Facebook that he's going to seriously explore the presidential run which silly me, I thought he was already doing. But nonetheless, it seems to have ratcheted everything up, including a lot of the commentary that it's just not the time for another Bush. What do you think?

NEWT GINGRICH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it tells you first of all the power of celebrity. You know, he is a genuine celebrity. He has a father who's a celebrity, he has a brother who's a celebrity, he has a son who will become a celebrity, and therefore, you know, if you put on Twitter or you put on Facebook, I am thinking about, thinking about the possibility that I will personally be thinking about whether or not I might consider serving the country if he wanted me to be president. Let me know what you think.

You know, a lot of people can do that, well, (INAUDIBLE) once there was a column about (INAUDIBLE) learning American model going back to France and saying, I don't want to be in it, and said, OK, and (ph) went (ph), the American model, you go through this dance, I was surprised he started this early. And it tells me that his friends believe that the donors are actively looking at other people. And that he has to freeze the donors. I thought he would do this in March.

CROWLEY: I did too. I agree with you. And he sort of signaled that that this was something that he's going to do later rather than earlier but it started (INAUDIBLE) the DNC elite talking points about Jeb, then sort of like he's a mini Romney, right? He's like Romney redux, and he's a rich guy and only likes rich people, et cetera, et cetera. And Jeb Bush, like, you know, within a nano second is up on Facebook saying, if I do decide to run for president, I can promise you this, no more kindergarten attack politics, which I think is probably wishful thinking.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think -- I think Jeb Bush is going to try to fill the vacuum in the Republican Party to become a party of ideas again. And it's clear to me that he's going to talk about education, of course immigration reform where he'd probably disagree with a lot of the Republicans. But the Republicans need almost a grown up in the -- in the presidential race in 2016. And I'm not saying anything about 2012, but I think that this year is different and Jeb Bush is going to try to answer some of those questions, and (ph) Republicans did not answer in 2012. What are you going to do about the economy? What are you going to do about jobs? What are you going to do about education? I think he's going to be an ideal candidate.

L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: He has a lot of tape too he has to answer for. The last time he was holding that office there's going to be a lot of bringing back up what happened during 2000 and his role or non-role in what happened there with his brother --

CROWLEY: Re-election with his brother. GRANDERSON: Exactly. He's going to have to talk about the tape

of him telling a black woman who asked, what are you going to do with black voters? And him saying, probably nothing. He's got tape of him saying, women on welfare need to find a husband, get their lives together. He has a lot of stuff -- a lot of stuff that could --


CROWLEY: -- than Hillary Clinton. I mean, let's say it's a, you know, she runs --

GINGRICH: I think there's a (INAUDIBLE) -- I think the Hogan race in Maryland was a really good lesson for people in both parties, particularly (INAUDIBLE). Hogan didn't care what you asked him. He talked about taxes. He had one issue. My hunch is if Jeb runs, Jeb is going to say look, there's a lifetime of junk out there, if you want to be involved, fine. Now, let me tell you what I'm going to do as president and frankly rise above all of that. I'm not going to get involve in that stuff.

AMY WALTER, NATIONAL EDITOR, "THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT": The question is can he do that in the Republican primary? That's the difficult part which is Jon Huntsman went in the 2012 election saying, I'm not going to run this like every other campaign. I'm running my own campaign. I'm going to do things my own way. You can't. The system will drive you in a certain way.

Now, you can be disciplined, and I think he will be. He can be. But it's also hard when you haven't been on the playing field. I mean, the last time he was on the ballot was 2002. Life has changed a lot in politics since 2002.

And, the hard part about politics now is there was a time when you, as a candidate who's a little bit rusty could kind of go on to the (INAUDIBLE) circuit sort of play into smaller crowds, smaller theaters, and get yourself ready. You can't do that anymore. There's a camera everywhere. There's a cell phone everywhere. So, it's harder to get yourself to that point. Can he rise above that all the way through a primary I think is a bigger challenge.

GINGRICH: I'm not arguing for or against Jeb Bush. I think he's the best politician in the family. I think he was a very creative governor. He is very idea-oriented, and he has very interesting story to tell. He's also going to be up against other people with good stories, Scott Walker runs, John Kasich runs, Perry runs, you suddenly have a whole series of governors, all of them with ideas, all of them with accomplishments, and I do think this is likely to be more of an adult cycle in the sense that these are all serious people with big accomplishments.


GRANDERSON: But there's also the factor that when they start to run, where is this country going to be? How are you going to bash President Obama if we're still at a sub six percent unemployment rate. How are you going to bash President Obama when we have more -- millions of Americans (INAUDIBLE) health insurance before President Obama was in office. (INAUDIBLE) not only that you have to have good ideas, you have to have good ideas against what was supposed to be bad ideas.

BRAZILE: Yes, but...


BRAZILE: bash President Obama I think that record has been played out. I think they're going to just, you know, switch another turn if they're going to start bashing Hillary Clinton.


WALTER: Well, and it's also easier -- here's the easy thing to do able to do this even happening on the Democratic side. Voters are saying overwhelmingly, we want a different direction than the one that President Obama has taken us. Almost a majority of Democrats want to go in a different direction. So, it's an easier case for Republicans to make the hard case actually is Hillary Clinton's case. She I think starts off as the underdog in this. How do you become the person who is different from the president in a country that wants to go in a different direction?

GRANDERSON: You know, it's so interesting that the polls are saying that and his approval ratings are in the mid-40 because he's accurate when he talks about virtually every metric shows that we have improved under him. We are better because of his presidency.

GINGRICH: Look, you're really smart so think about it for a second, why is this true? OK. I mean, what you just said is a very interesting objective dilemma. Here's a guy who could make a pretty rational case, but there's something he's doing, which blocks the case from being received by a huge percent of Americans. And you know, in 52 percent of the Democrats are now in favor of gun rights, something profound has happened -



GINGRICH: There's a lot of different places now with a solid majority wants to repeal Obamacare. I mean, this goes beyond arguing about detail. This guest (INAUDIBLE). This is the summary judgments --

CROWLEY: OK. Let me -- I've got to break you here real quick but we're going to come back on the other side. I also want to talk about Rand Paul and Marco Rubio.


CROWLEY: We are back with our panel. I want to talk about Marco Rubio and Rand Paul simply because I thought it was interesting when John McCain said, I believe that this might be an election about foreign policy and about the sorts of things we are facing. And Rand Paul and Marco Rubio squared off over Cuba this week. Rand Paul saying, it's a good idea to reach out. And Marco Rubio going, you don't know what you're talking about.

Do you think it's possible that this could be, I mean only under certain circumstances are elections about foreign policy?

GINGRICH: Well, I think this will have a -- big part, 1960 with Kennedy was about national strength, Reagan in '80 in many ways is about national strength.

I think this will be a big issue. I think candidly, I think Rand Paul made a big mistake, for two reasons. The first is Rubio represents the genuine pain of people who had relatives killed, relatives in prison. And Rubio really does speak for the generation that felt that the Castro brothers were evil, and that had personal proof of it.

Second, yesterday Raul Castro goes to the Cuban National Assembly, holds basically a victory celebration, as the Associated Press described it as a celebration of triumph over American aggression and says, finally our system is not going to change at all, that it's not on the table and (ph) (INAUDIBLE) coverage in the U.S. could have the president will look like a fool.


BRAZILE: The president understood that Cuba was not going to change overnight. That there is still human rights violations, that the world to democracy is not clear for Cubans.

I visited Cuba, and there are many Cubans who are excited about this because, yes, they want to reunite with their families, they want to open up their economy. Cuba is in the midst of reforming its economy from its port system to doing business with other Latin American countries, and there was no -- there's no reason to continue the old outdated cold war policy.

I understand the frustration that Marco Rubio and many other exiled communities feel. But the world needs to understand that Cuba, 90 miles from our Florida border, there's no reason for us to continue a policy that's not really working.

GRANDERSON: You know, on top of that, I mean, Vladimir Putin was making overtures this summer quietly. He forgave millions of dollars of debt. He has been having meetings with Raul Castro about how he's setting up a spying base 90 miles from our shores. So, I thought it was smart as a counter move for any sort of overtures that Russia was making to re-establish its relationship with Cuba that was severed after the USSR collapse.

BRAZILE: The Chinese have been looking at ways to drill down there in Cuba.

GINGRICH: But the question is year from now, have we accomplished anything? Are the prisoners released? Is there genuine freedom of any kind? Are the Russians closed out? CROWLEY: It hasn't (ph) been for 50 years.

It seems to me that when you look at the polling anyway if you want to look at this a political point of view, the American people think it makes sense to go, OK, for 50 years we have had this embargo and it hasn't worked.

WALTER: It's clearly very parochial. If you're living in Florida you're having a very -- and you're part of the exile community very different reaction than you are anywhere else in the world.

But I think what this issue raised was there are many more rifts within the Republican Party and the primary than there will be on the Democratic side even with all the talk about -- there's --


WALTER: Right. Well, if that helps but -- there's not -- there's all this talk about there's a Warren wing and there's discontent among liberals. If it's there I'm not seeing it in any polling.

I mean, Hillary Clinton is as well established as any Democratic candidate ever.


WALTER: Or a Republican ever who is a non-incumbent. On the Republican side, this is sort of an election of a reckoning, right? There are big divisions there. It's fine but they've got to figure out which candidate they want to see. Rand Paul is going to come in on the one side. Marco Rubio and others on the other side, not on this issue but a whole host of others.

CROWLEY: I've got to -- I've got to stop it there because we've run out of time. So, I do want you to come back but you know -- anyway.

WALTER: Oh, Candy.


CROWLEY: Amy Walter, L.Z. Granderson, Newt Gingrich, Donna Brazile, yes, my favorites. Thank you.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

CROWLEY: We'll be right back.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Recently I met five newcomers to the press corps but only three of them are here tonight, and when I met them, I told them this is the first press conference that I knew they were here that I was going to call on them if they had a question. Candy, do you have a question? CROWLEY: How can I turn that down? A little earlier you said,

yes, that the military exercises, that you did want to underscore that the U.S. is opposed to the use of force...


CROWLEY: the region. Is sending down our military might to the region a way to show that we oppose force? Isn't there some sort of contradiction there?

CHRIS WALLACE, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": I have known you since the Reagan years when we were both kids covering that White House and whether it was in the field or at the anchor desk, you have always been one of the journalists that I really admire. You do serious work. Congratulations on a great stint at STATE OF THE UNION.

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS'S "FACE OF THE NATION": This is not just CNN's loss but all of ours. Your insights, your political instincts, your writing -- reporting are just the best. We're going to miss seeing you in Iowa, New Hampshire, and again every Sunday on CNN.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC'S "THIS WEEK": Candy, you have set such a high standard in so many ways, not just on Sunday mornings but with your expert moderating of debates and the work you put in to day to day political reporting. I don't know if anyone who knows as much about the ins and outs of politics as you do and you've shown it.

CHUCK TODD, NBC'S "MEET THE PRESS": You are an incredibly gracious colleague. Somebody who provided advice to someone like me rising up. You didn't need to do that but you did. You're just a political junkie's junkie.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": She has been an inspiration for all of us. I have been with CNN now for nearly 25 years. She's been with me every step of the way. She's a great, great journalist. She's an inspiration, but most important she's simply a wonderful, wonderful person.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Candy, you can cut through the spin and the talking points and translate political speak into real deal English like no one else in our business and that's the Candy our viewers know. What they don't get to see is how kind and funny and nurturing you have been to me and so many others, especially women. You taught us all how to deal with what you call the big pants. You know what I mean. You're my mentor, my friend, and we are all going to miss you.

ANDY COHEN, BRAVO TV: Oh, I'm going to miss you so bad, but the truth of the matter is you're not going to be far away from me. You're always very close to me because over my shoulder, here you are. I have you at all times right here. And you will remain here, and I thank you for gracing my clubhouse, and I thank you for all the work you've done on Capitol Hill.

CRAIG FERGUSON, HOST, CBS'S "LATE LATE SHOW": So, Candy, Geoff and I are distraught to hear that you are retiring, aren't we, Geoff? GEOFF PETERSON, ROBOT: Yes, very heartbreaking.

FERGUSON: Geoff, what will you remember most about Candy's work?

PETERSON: Oh, so many things.

FERGUSON: As we stand here warming ourselves by this roaring fire, we would like to bid you adieu, Candy. Television will be bleep (ph) without you. Am I right, Geoff?

PETERSON: That's right, that's right.

FERGUSON: We bid you adieu.

CROWLEY: And adieu to you as well. That was great.

Thank all of my colleagues and some surprising folks in there. Thank you so much.

Now, as I say on Capitol Hill, a point of personal privilege. It has been 27 years, the last 5 in this studio. This is my last show. I am excited about going and sad about leaving. A few moments of thanks can't capture what I have, bottomless gratitude to so many but let me try the broad brush.

First to you our audience. Without you watching our voice is silent. And when you wrote me in the old days of pen and stationary or called me on the phone, and ping me now thank you for being happy enough or angry enough or frustrated enough to chime in. I didn't always like what you said, I didn't agree with what you said, but it mattered to me that you were saying it.

And thank you to the thousands of people, literally thousands of people who over nearly three decades have sat down with me for interviews, trusting me, honoring me with their stories and their thoughts. Television news as you may know is a team sport. It doesn't take a village, it takes a mid-sized country.

So, to my CNN's colleagues current and former who made it happen, I hope I have stopped to thank you over the years of the craziness for the many, many things you have done for me and for the love of news.

To my STATE OF THE UNION crew in that control room standing behind these cameras with me now ever more, it's not just my thanks you have, but my respect and my friendship. And to my staff, the mighty band on the ninth floor, you are talented and fierce and loyal and a girl couldn't ask for anything more. If I ever have to storm the barricades, I want you by my side.

And now for some names I have to say out loud. Mike Roselli my incomparable senior producer who has been with me for a quarter of century. He's been a superior producer. He remains a lifelong member of my family. That brings me to Richard (INAUDIBLE), Jonathan, and Lauren. You are my supernovas. You blaze across my universe with a brilliance that overwhelms me. But you're also my north star. You are the direction of my life, grounding me no matter where I have been, you always turn me toward home.

I know all of you pretty much grew up at CNN and this is the sea change for you as well. I have some good news, I am not moving in with any of you. So for the last time, thank you all so much for joining me. Please continue to watch STATE OF THE UNION and CNN.

I'm Candy Crowley in Washington.

Fareed Zakaria, "GPS," starts right now.