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STATE OF THE UNION

Plane Crash Investigation Continues; Harry Reid Leaving Senate; Interview With Speaker of the House John Boehner. Aired 9-10:00a ET

Aired March 29, 2015 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:10] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Shocking new details about the doomed Germanwings flight's final moments.

And the House speaker plots new moves against Iran.

This is STATE OF THE UNION.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BASH: New terrifying developments in the Germanwings plane crash. House Speaker John Boehner issues a new warning about Iran. Senator Ted Cruz on why he wants to be president. And the Senate's top Democrat's surprise decision to call it quits.

Good morning from Washington. I'm Dana Bash.

We are learning chilling new details about the last moments of Germanwings Flight 9525, as well as the co-pilot who intentionally crashed the jet carrying 150 passengers and crew into the French Alps.

CNN senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen is in Cologne, Germany.

Frederik, a German newspaper has just released a transcript of the plane's voice recorder. What does it tell us?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting, Dana.

This is the "Bild" newspaper, which is the largest newspaper in Germany. And it has excerpts from what it says is the transcript of the voice recording. And even at the beginning of the flight, it seems as though everything is normal, but there might be telltale signs that maybe Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot of the flight, was already setting the captain up to leave the cockpit so that he could steer the plane into the mountain.

The flight took off -- there are 1.5 hours of recordings that the investigators went through the flight, took off 20 minutes late. And already at the beginning, the captain can be heard apologizing for the delay. At the same time, the captain also tells Lubitz that he didn't manage to go to the bathroom while at Barcelona. And Lubitz tells him, don't worry, you can go at any time.

Remember, he used the bathroom break to then lock the captain out of the cockpit. At 10:27 a.m. local time, the plane reaches its cruising altitude of 38,000 feet. At that point, the co-pilot once again tells the captain, well, now you can go. Don't worry. At that point, you hear a seat going backwards, which is, of course, the way that you leave a cockpit, and then the captain tells the co-pilot, you can take over. And at that point, he leaves the cockpit, Dana.

BASH: It is so chilling, and the fact that this also talks about the fact that one of the wings hit a mountain, it's pretty clear from this voice recording. What are we learning about the last few minutes of the flight, especially with regard to that wing and the mountain?

PLEITGEN: Yes, exactly. That's -- that's -- that is -- yes, that's where it gets really chilling.

So, according to this "Bild" newspaper, at 10:29, remember, air traffic, remember -- and, remember, the captain is outside of the cockpit at this point. At 10:29, air traffic detects that the plane is beginning to descend. They try to contact the plane at 10:32. There is no response from the co-pilot. Shortly after that, a loud bang can be heard on the door and the captain describing, "For God's sake, open the door."

Passengers can now be heard for first time screaming in the background. At 10:35, another loud metallic bang this time is heard, as though someone is trying to knock the door down. The plane is at 7,000 meters at this point. Ninety seconds later, there's a warning from the cockpit, an alarm that goes off saying, terrain, pull up. At this point, the plane is at 5,000 meters.

The captain once again is heard screaming, "Open the door." At 10:38, the plane is descending towards the French Alps. The pilot who's in charge right now, so this is the co-pilot, he is in the cockpit. He's breathing normally. Then at 10:40, as you said, the plane's right wing seems to scrape a mountain top. The investigators apparently believe that they could hear that. At that point you hear the passengers scream one more time and at that point that is the end of the recording.

So it really is a very chilling read of these final moments of that Germanwings flight that went down in the Alps, Dana.

BASH: Absolutely terrifying. Frederik, thank you for that report. I appreciate it.

And here with us now, Charley Pereira, who is a former NTSB investigator who co-wrote the first chapter of the 9/11 Commission report.

Thank you for joining me.

First, just your reaction to what we know detail by detail of those last final minutes?

CHARLEY PEREIRA, FORMER NTSB INVESTIGATOR: Well, for the families, it's another horrible piece of data that indicates what their families went through. That's the worst part of all of this. BASH: It is.

PEREIRA: For investigators, these are what we call -- establishes boundary conditions for the reconstruction of the flight path of the airplane.

There will likely be ground scars or witness marks where the wing reportedly hit the mountain. We typically go out to those areas and search along the flight path for trees that have been severed and impacts on rocks if it's a mountain. And that establishes a definite boundary condition for the reconstruction of the flight path of the airplane. So, those are the primary things that we take from this.

[09:05:03] This is typical for a cockpit voice recorder transcript. And you not only document the sounds, but you look out for correlation points, such as the strike on the mountain.

BASH: Let's talk about the pilot. It's actually so much more abundantly clear in getting this ticktock, as Frederik, just reported, that this was a plan. This was something that he clearly was trying to set up the pilot to leave the cockpit, so he can make this happen.

What does this tell you about screenings? I was actually very shocked to learn that it's pretty lax when it comes to airline pilots, especially compared to other areas where there's public safety involved, police officers, firefighters, astronauts. Why is that?

PEREIRA: It's our society. Our society places emphasis on privacy.

And in the United States, it's placed on self-reporting of medical issues because of that privacy. Obviously, after this accident, there's going to be further looks at that. You know, that's -- part of the last phase of any accident investigation is preventing recurrence.

BASH: But there's -- you know, firefighters have privacy, astronauts have privacy. Why is it sort of held out and walled off for someone like a pilot, who has 150 people's lives literally in his hands?

PEREIRA: Well, the first and foremost portion of that is going to be the Airline Pilots Association, which is a very strong union that represents airline pilots. And there's an international version of that, also, the International Federation of Air Line Pilots, IFALPA.

And they're going to continue, I'm sure, to say that this is a -- and it is statistically, you know, so far. I wouldn't call it a one- off event, because I do know of at least one other that has occurred similar to this where one of the crew members was locked out and the other crew member took the airplane to the ground intentionally.

So I think it's going to receive increasing scrutiny, and there are certainly some system and automation technology solutions to this that can prevent recurrence of this relatively easily. BASH: Do you think that the -- that the rules should be changed?

I mean, it seems at this point, looking at this particular tragedy, it seems obvious, but then the flip site, look, there could be overreach. There are a lot of people who are on antidepressants, for example, who aren't homicidal.

PEREIRA: You want to -- as an accident investigator, you are trained in the final section of an investigation to develop measures to prevent recurrence.

So I don't think that we should limit it to just looking at the human side of it, the filter, per se, of the pilots. We don't want to just try to better filter pilots to try to keep the bad apples out of the cockpit. We want to accept that this can occur, and we want to develop technology solutions that prevent recurrence.

For example, on this transcript, you hear the words, terrain, pull up. That is issued by a system that is called a terrain awareness warning system. The first one was established by Honeywell known as enhanced ground proximity warning system.

The airplane, particularly this airplane, already has automated functions that prevent the pilot from stalling an airplane and going to high an angle of attack. If this system senses approaching terrain, an impending crash, it would be relatively easy to bring in the flight control computer, basically the autopilot, to pull up the nose of the airplane to prevent impact with terrain.

That's one relatively easy solution. Another one is to have ground people interact with the flight control system on the airplane, just like they do with drones, very similar to that, to monitor the flight path and make sure it conforms to the authorized flight path of the airplane, and if it exceeds that by a certain value, that they come in.

BASH: Let me just ask you one final question. You worked on the 9/11 Commission report. One of the rule on planes, something that changed post-9/11 was the lock on the door, the fact that they need a special code or a special key to get in. That was to prevent potential terrorists to get into the cockpit, but the reverse happened. This allowed the person who was already in the cockpit to take over.

How do you change that, or did it go too far?

PEREIRA: We made that recommendation, but, as with any recommendation for a solution, a system solution, you have to do a complete system safety analysis.

And, obviously, that wasn't done very well in this case, because any such what-if system safety analysis should have identified the what-if the other captain -- or the other pilot locks the other person out. Well, they what-if-ed about having a code on the outside, a keypad to punch it in, in case the guy was incapacitated, but they didn't what-if about if the guy didn't intentionally want him to come in and operated the button that prevented the keypad solution from allowing the other pilot in.

They did a very poor job of system safety analysis on that one. And it cost these passengers their lives.

BASH: It sure did. Thank you very much for your insight. Appreciate it. Thank you.

PEREIRA: You're welcome.

[09:10:00] BASH: And coming up, we are going to turn to politics here and the House speaker. He talks to us exclusively about bipartisan bonding, his trip this coming week to Israel, and action he plans to take if there are no nuclear deals with Iran.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:10:00] BASH: And coming up, we are going to turn to politics here and the House speaker. He talks to us exclusively about bipartisan bonding, his trip this coming week to Israel, and action he plans to take if there are no nuclear deals with Iran.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: We saw a rare break in the constant congressional gridlock this week, when House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi struck a deal.

No, you didn't hear that wrong. They actually struck a bipartisan deal on health care that affects everything from Medicare to children in need. The measure passed overwhelmingly.

I spoke with House Speaker John Boehner about that accomplishment and much, much more before Congress left for spring recess.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: I get to ask you about bipartisanship...

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Yes.

BASH: ... which is kind of nice.

BOEHNER: It is nice.

BASH: A health care deal that you worked on for older Americans, doctors, programs for children. And you cut the deal with Nancy Pelosi, worked on it with her, called her, met with her. Your aides worked together.

BOEHNER: No, it was -- it was an opportunity that presented itself. And the door opened, and I walked in. It's as simple as that.

[09:15:00] Over the last several months, we have been trying to find a way to change the way we pay doctors for Medicare patients. And when you look at the agreement that we came to, it will strengthen Medicare, make it easier for patients to find doctors, and a fairer way of paying doctors for the services that they render.

And I was happy that my Democrat colleagues and I were able to come to an agreement to strengthen Medicare, extend the children's health plan, extend the authorization for community health centers, and make a bunch of other changes that, frankly, in the long run will be good for our country.

BASH: And, Mr. Speaker, this is how it's supposed to work. You know how to legislate. You are -- it is an art and you understand the art. So does Nancy Pelosi. Why doesn't this happen more often?

BOEHNER: Well, it's a little unusual, because something like this really hasn't happened for some time, although you have to understand that 95 percent of what happens here in Congress every day happens on a bipartisan basis.

BASH: But the problem is, not a lot happens. That's the point.

BOEHNER: No, no, there is a lot that happens, and it happens on a bipartisan basis. And when it does, it really doesn't make news.

BASH: Is this a sign that you will do business differently in the future on other big issues that are coming up, on the debt ceiling and things like that, with regard to your party?

I mean, you know, part of the issue is, you have had to, as you have said many times, lead your sometimes raucous caucus, but are you able to...

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: ... now?

BOEHNER: Well, my goal every day is to try to keep 218 frogs in a wheelbarrow long enough to get something passed.

And I'm a conservative Republican. I would rather work with my conservative allies. But I have always looked for ways to find bipartisan agreements that are in the best interests of the American people. And I'm going to continue to do that.

BASH: Let's talk about Israel.

You are going to be traveling there this coming week. This has been described as a victory lap that you are going to take because of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's win there, his reelection win. How do you react to that?

BOEHNER: My visit there was planned months ago, before the prime minister came here and before his reelection. And so it's not quite what I would describe as a victory lap.

There are serious issues and activities going on in the Middle East, and I think it's critically important for members of Congress to hear from foreign leaders, other governments, other parts of their government to get a real handle on the challenges that we face there. BASH: But you know that perception is reality oftentimes in

politics, and in global politics especially. There is some symbolism, you going there, whether it was planned months ago or not, at this time.

BOEHNER: There's a strong relationship between America and Israel, a very strong relationship between the United States Congress and Israel.

And I think, over the last several months, that relationship has been strengthened. And, frankly, part of my goal in going to Israel is to continue to strengthen the relationship that we have between America and Israel.

BASH: Are you going to speak to the...

BOEHNER: They're an important ally.

BASH: Are you going to speak to the Knesset, the way you invited the prime minister to speak here?

BOEHNER: No, I don't need all the fanfare.

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: The prime minister, right before his reelection, disavowed a two-state solution. Then, right afterwards, he said, never mind, and he took it back.

You know political rhetoric and campaign rhetoric. But even for a politician, wasn't this a little brazen?

BOEHNER: I don't think so.

BASH: Why not?

BOEHNER: Well, he doesn't have a partner.

How do you have a two-state solution when you don't have a partner in that solution, when you don't have a partner for peace, when you have got a -- when the other state is vowing to wipe you off the face of the earth? And so, until -- until there's a willing partner willing to sit down and have -- and have peace talks, I think it's irrelevant whether we're talking about a two-state solution.

BASH: Well, but it's still an aspirational goal, right? So, do you -- are you saying that you don't think that there should a Palestinian state?

BOEHNER: No, I think it's an aspirational goal.

I think, when the prime minister kind of walked back his comments, he realized it's an aspirational goal. But we're nowhere close to having anything like it, because you have got Hamas controlling what goes on, on Gaza, and they don't seem to be interested in peace. BASH: But you still believe in a two-state solution, correct?

Do you believe in a Palestinian state?

BOEHNER: Yes, as long as you have got a willing partner willing to hold up their end of their deal.

BASH: The White House doesn't believe the prime minister. Can you blame the White House and the president for not believing what he's saying on where his position is on this?

BOEHNER: I think the animosity exhibited by our administration toward the prime minister of Israel is reprehensible.

And I think that the pressure that they have put on him over the last four or five years have, frankly, pushed him to the point where he had to speak up. I don't blame him at all for speaking up.

[09:20:10] BASH: But a lot of people blame you for the rift being much deeper, because you invited the prime minister here to speak. There was already trouble, but have you fueled that fire?

BOEHNER: I had one goal. I had one goal.

And that goal was to make sure that the American people heard and the Congress heard about the serious threat that Iran poses not only to the Middle East, but for the rest of the world, including the United States. There's nobody going to talk more clearly about this.

The president doesn't want to talk about it. He doesn't want to talk about the threat of radical Islam and the fact that he has no strategy to deal with it. And when you begin to see all these leaks that have -- that probably came out of the White House in terms of what the Iranian deal was starting to shape up to be, there's a lot of concern in Congress on a bipartisan basis.

And I'm glad that he was here. And, frankly, the speech that he gave was the clearest speech I have heard in 25 years about the real threats that face our country.

BASH: Just ask you a counterintuitive question. Do you think that you might have a role in repairing the rift now, particularly since you're going to Israel?

BOEHNER: Listen, I'm the most open, transparent guy here in town, in this town. And I'm going. I'm going to be myself. And if there's anything I can do to repair it, I would be happy to do it.

BASH: You're going to be in Israel around the time of the deadline for the Iran negotiations.

The president has made it very clear that, if there's a deal, he doesn't want or need Congress' approval. Are you going to make sure, if there is a deal, that that is going to happen?

BOEHNER: Well, let's wait and see if there's an agreement. I have got serious doubts. I had serious doubts over the last year whether there could be an agreement, and I still have serious doubts.

We have got a regime that's never quite kept their word about anything. I just don't understand why we would sign an agreement with a group of people who, in my opinion, have no intention of keeping their word.

BASH: If there is no agreement, how quickly would you move to further sanctions against Iran in the House?

BOEHNER: Very.

BASH: Like, days?

BOEHNER: Very.

BASH: Minutes, hours?

BOEHNER: Very quickly.

Listen, the sanctions were working. They would have never come to the table. And, frankly, we should have kept the sanctions in place, so that we could have gotten to a real agreement. And the sanctions are going to come, and they're going to come quick.

BASH: How would you characterize your relationship with President Obama right now?

BOEHNER: My relationship with the president is good.

BASH: How often do you talk?

BOEHNER: I talk to him. You know, last week, we had the Irish prime minister here, had a nice chat over lunch.

BASH: What did you talk about?

BOEHNER: But that doesn't mean we agree on a whole host of issues.

But, you know, our job is to try to find areas where we do agree, where there is common interest, and act on it on behalf of the American people. So we had a nice conversation. But I get along with him fine. And I -- and I'm very clear with him about what I think. And he's very clear with me about what he thinks.

BASH: Let's talk about 2016.

As a leader of the Republican Party, you obviously want to see a Republican in the White House.

BOEHNER: I do.

BASH: What -- is there a concern that you have that there's going to be such a tough fight, with so many candidates running on the Republican side, just like there was in 2012, and no fight on the Democratic side, we'd expect, that your all -- your guys are going to be bloodied and bruised, and Hillary Clinton is just going to kind of not be?

BOEHNER: I think competition is a good thing.

You know, I used to sell corrugated boxes. And they could buy the box from me or from 25 other people. It's the same box. But it was -- it was tough. But let me tell you what. It made all of us better, you know? It caused innovation, caused people to think outside the box. And so I'm a big believer in competition. I have 11 brothers and sisters, all right?

I know about competition. And...

BASH: But do you think she's at a disadvantage because she doesn't have...

BOEHNER: And so I actually do, because when you go through a primary process and you have to compete, and, if you win, you're ready.

Listen, I went through a primary my first race for the statehouse, went through a big primary my first race for Congress. You know, when your name looks like "Beaner," "Bonner," "Boner," people aren't going to vote for you if they can't say your name.

In my first race for Congress, my opponent was Tom Kindness. Now, you try to have a name that looks like "Boner" running against a guy named Kindness. It's a miracle I won.

So, competition is good. In addition to that, you know, they have tightened up the primary season, the Republican National Committee has, and changed the schedule for debates. And I just think it's going to be -- while a lot of competition, it's going to be handled in a much better way.

BASH: Ted Cruz told me that he will likely sign up for Obamacare now because he lost his wife's insurance because she's left her job.

[09:25:06] Considering how hard he's made your life in pushing so hard that the government ended up shutting down to repeal Obamacare, what do you think about that?

BOEHNER: I have got a big job to do here doing real work. And I think I will just keep doing my job.

BASH: OK. I think we call that a punt in official -- official terms.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: Good morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: How long do you want to be speaker? BOEHNER: Until -- until I have had enough of it.

Listen, it's a big job. Somebody has to do this. And, you know, all the skills I learned growing up are the skills I need to do my job. Grew up in a big family, 11 brothers and sisters. You have to learn to get along with each other, get things done together.

And, you know, today's political environment's a little different than it was when I first got here. And so the job that I have is far more challenging than what I think some of my predecessors have had. But I enjoy it every day.

BASH: But you seem to have avoided a coup. There was certainly talk about that. That didn't happen.

BOEHNER: That was -- I don't know where that story started. It was laughable. Laughable.

BASH: Really?

BOEHNER: Listen, I have got great relationships with our members and great relationships with our members across the aisle. I treat them all fairly, honestly, and I think they appreciate the work that I do for them.

BASH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Appreciate it.

BOEHNER: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And, later, Speaker Boehner gives us an inside look at his stunning view of the Capitol and tells us about a household chore that he's passionate about.

But, next, what would a Ted Cruz presidency to look like? My conversation with the first official candidate for president for 2016.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: Senator Ted Cruz is off and running as the first presidential candidate of 2016.

He spent Friday in the first primary state of New Hampshire telling voters how he'll create jobs, abolish the IRS and to repeal Obamacare, a program he told me he's now likely to use to get his own health insurance. I caught up with the senator earlier this week during his whirlwind announcement tour.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Senator Cruz, thank you very much and congratulations on your announcement.

I want to first read something to you a description, a Harvard law graduate, 40 something years old, two young daughters, in the Senate for only two years who thinks he can be president. I could be describing you, I could be describing Barack Obama.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: True enough, but I think there are a lot more notable differences between us than the similarities.

BASH: That is true, but, you know, one of the key things that we're already hearing is you don't have a lot of experience when it comes to being in federal office or being in office at all and this you're, you know, too young and too inexperienced for the job.

CRUZ: Well you know, Dana, I think there are really two sharp distinctions between where I am today and where Barack Obama was when he launched his campaign.

Number one, in his time in the Senate he had basically been a back bencher. He had not been leading on issues of (ph) any significance. In my time in the Senate you can accuse me of being a lot of things but a back bencher is not one of them.

BASH: That may be true, but the big criticism of President Obama especially as the years have gone on is that, he didn't have any experience in an executive function, he didn't run any organization and the same can be said about you.

CRUZ: But -

BASH: What experience do you have to be commander in chief of the United States military, for example?

CRUZ: Well, unlike Barack Obama, I was not a community organizer before I was elected to the senate. I spent 5 1/2 years as the solicitor general of Texas, the chief lawyer for Texas in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. I supervised and led every appeal for the state of Texas in a 4,000 person agency with over 700 lawyers. And over the course of 5 1/2 years over and over again Texas led the nation defending conservative principles and winning.

BASH: You talk about sticking to principles and defending principles. Obviously that is your calling card. But if you were to achieve the next level, the presidency of the United States, you have to get beyond that and you have to really learn how to compromise.

Give me an example where you have successfully compromised in the United States Senate with Democrats.

CRUZ: Well, if you look at some of the legislation that has passed -- that I've been able to pass when I was there, for example, if you look to about a year ago when Iran named Hamid Aboutalebi as their ambassador to the U. N., he was a known terrorist, he had participated in holding Americans hostage, and that was intended to be and was in fact a slap in the face to the United States.

I introduced legislation barring Aboutalebi from being admitted to this country. And it had earned the support from senators as varied as Lindsey Graham and Chuck Schumer. It passed the Senate 100 to nothing. It went to the House. It passed the House 435 to nothing, and president Obama signed it into law. And so we were able to get unanimity, bipartisan agreement and to change the law to keep Aboutalebi and keep other known terrorists from coming to this country from being in New York City with diplomatic immunity.

BASH: But you yourself made the point. I mean, 100 to nothing it has got to be something incredibly noncontroversial.

CRUZ: Well but - it doesn't mean unimportant. I'll give you another example of leading and finding issues that can bring --

BASH: Because I believe that might be the only legislation that you have your name on as a co-sponsor that was successful in the legislature.

CRUZ: Well, I'll give you another example which is -- you'll recall last year when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered by Hamas. And I joined with New Jersey senator, Democrat Bob Menendez in introducing legislation to provide for a $5 million reward in the state department for information leading to the capture of the terrorist who kidnapped and murdered Naftali Fraenkel who was a dual American-Israeli citizen.

Now, Bob Menendez and I did that together. That, likewise, passed the Senate 100 to nothing. It would have passed the House but thankfully they caught the terrorist before the House passed it.

And in fact I'll point to another example, which is I joined with New York Democrat, Kirsten Gillibrand, in passing a resolution through the Senate condemning Hamas' use of human shields. Again, we got it unanimously passed --

BASH: But it's fair that there's just one piece of legislation that is now law with your name on it.

CRUZ: Well, that's accurate, but -- look, in the Harry Reid Senate we passed next to nothing. Harry Reid and the Democrats basically shut down the Senate. And I can tell you the two things that I have passed the Senate, the two pieces of legislation that passed the Senate are more than all but a handful of Republicans in the last two years and that was despite Senate Democrats basically shutting the Senate down so that almost nothing could pass.

[00:09:05] BASH: I want to ask you also about something that you and I have talked about several times over the years, which is likability. With respect, you're not the most popular man in the Republican conference. I think you know that by now.

You wear it as a badge of honor because you stand up for principle but again when you are president of the United States you have to have at least some measure or level of likability in order to reach out and get things done. How will you overcome that?

CRUZ: Well you know, I'll point out there's an almost inverse relationship between being liked and appreciated in Washington, D.C., and reviled back home. And being reviled in Washington and appreciated back home -- I mean, you remember because you came to Texas...

BASH: Mm-hmm.

CRUZ: ...after we had the historic fight to stop Obamacare, to defund Obamacare. A lot of people in Washington -- I didn't support the shutdown but I did support defunding Obamacare. I think it was a mistake when Harry Reid and the Democrats forced a shutdown.

But my point was you were in Texas when I came home to the state convention of the Texas Federation of Republican Women and you saw the reaction...

BASH: Mm-hmm.

CRUZ: ...of in that case the women back home who enthusiastically appreciated someone who was standing and fighting for them.

BASH: I absolutely did, but the White House isn't in Texas, it's in Washington.

CRUZ: That's part of the problem.

BASH: Well, but you have to work with -- if you want to be president of the United States, you're going to live in the White House and work within the confines of the government. You know, you're asking people to (INAUDIBLE) about the constitution.

CRUZ: Yes.

BASH: So, you obviously - you know, you don't want to change the system that much. So, within those confines as president how do you change that? How do you get to a place where you would be likeable enough and have relationships enough to actually get things done?

CRUZ: Well, let me draw a distinction on the likability question that you're raising.

There's a distinction between how you treat people and what it is you say and do. In my time in the Senate there have been more than a few rocks tossed my direction, from Democrats and Republicans. And yet in my entire time there, I haven't reciprocated. You have never heard me speak ill of any senator, Republican or Democrat, and I don't intend to start.

And in fact, in the presidential race in 2016, there may be other candidates who choose to throw rocks my direction. I'm not going to engage in the personal mudslinging, in the negative attacks on people's character. And I think that's a big part of treating people with civility and respect that I've endeavored to do every day I've been in Washington.

BASH: On Israel, what's your reaction to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu saying right before the election he opposed the two-state solution, a Palestinian state, and then afterwards when he won saying, never mind, and reversing his position? CRUZ: Well, I think the United States should stand unshakably

with the nation of Israel. I think one of the most disgraceful aspects of the Obama presidency has been how it has treated Prime Minister Netanyahu.

BASH: But that's not - but that's not the question.

CRUZ: But -

BASH: The question is the two-state solution.

CRUZ: I don't think it should be America dictating the solution there.

Israel is a sovereign nation and I trust the leaders of Israel to determine whether they want to adopt a one-state solution or a two- state solution. So what I'm saying is we should trust Israel to make that determination.

One of the problems, and the reason I started with how the Obama administration has treated Israel, because they have demonstrated an arrogance that America's going to dictate the terms of security in Israel. It's not our place to do it. If we can facilitate discussions, if we can provide a neutral forum, if we can bring people together, great, but it shouldn't be America saying, here's how you should resolve the security issue in Israel.

BASH: So, you do not - President Cruz would not support and push for a Palestinian state?

CRUZ: I think that is a decision for the nation of Israel. I think Israel has far more stake in achieving peace and achieving a long-term solution in Israel. And the impediment to peace is not the Israelis. The impediment to peace -- right now the Palestinians have a so called unity government with Hamas, a terrorist organization who I might note openly celebrated the kidnapping and murder of Israeli teenagers. You can't negotiate settlement with terrorists like Hamas that are calling for the elimination of the nation of Israel. That's the impediment to peace.

I would love to see peace in Israel and so would Israelis and a great many Palestinians, but as long as the Palestinian government allies itself with terrorist organizations calling for the destruction of Israel we're not going to see peace in Israel. And America shouldn't be dictating a security solution.

BASH: Senator Cruz, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

CRUZ: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: And congratulations.

CRUZ: Thank you very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE) [00:09:59] BASH: And Ted Cruz won't be the only official 2016

presidential contender for long. Announcements are coming in the next few weeks from Republican senators Rand Paul and Marco Rubio.

And coming up, Harry Reid hangs up his boxing gloves, political ones, that is. The consequences of his retirement when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: With one presidential announcement done and more soon to follow, the political world is turning its attention to 2016. And joining me here at the table is Ben LaBolt, press secretary for President Obama's 2012 campaign, and Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist who worked for Mitt Romney's campaign.

And Kevin, you also worked a few years ago for John Boehner. So, I want to ask you, actually, you know how he thinks but also what he told me with regard to the competition that Hillary Clinton did not have and how that might hurt her.

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Right.

BASH: You worked for Mitt Romney when he did have a lot of competition. Do you think that's wishful thinking?

[00:09:44] MADDEN: Well look, I think, if you go by the book and Ben knows this as well, nobody wants to face a primary. You want to be able to harness all your resources and be able to go through a primary process or you want to go through and be able to reach a general election sort of untarred, right?

And I think when I look at Hillary Clinton, I do feel like right now she could use a sparring partner. It has been a long time since she's actually gone through the political process. She flourished, I think, in a very apolitical role as secretary of state. And I think, you know, the debates and going out there, and testing ideas, and really getting to meet people and be forced to meet people in all of these early primary states would be helpful for her.

BASH: And the last time she had a sparring partner turned out that she was beaten by that person who you were working for at the time, Barack Obama. So, certainly it helps with their skills and I get that, but there's a down side. I mean, no one out there looks like they could beat her but still --

BEN LABOLT, OBAMA 2012 CAMPAIGN PRESS SECRETARY: Yes. Look, I do think -- I do think that process strengthened her. But it's not like Hillary Clinton is untested and she will have a sparring partner every day of the race. Their names are Jeb Bush, and Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz and the Republicans in Congress.

And what's clear to me is that Secretary Clinton is not going to take this race for granted. They're sending staff to the early states. It sounds like she'll be in intimate settings with voters throughout the primary process running a real primary campaign, not just jumping straight to the general election. So, I think she'll be plenty tested over the course of the next year and a half.

MADDEN: Yes, just (ph) real (ph) quick (ph). It does feel right now like she is in a bubble. She doesn't really have -- the way that Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz are going out there doing one on one interviews, and going out there and meeting with voters, and traveling across the country and -- it feels like right now she is sort of, you know, being kept away from a lot of these folks.

BASH: Right.

MADDEN: That's sort of hurting her profile -

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: And as long as she can get out there and do that there is a benefit despite...

MADDEN: Right.

BASH: ...what John Boehner said to having a sparring partner on the right as opposed to attacking (ph) to the left which you generally have to do in the primaries.

MADDEN: Right. And her big problem is this relatability idea. And then when she's constantly away from the crowd that relatability problem just gets worse.

BASH: Now, I want to ask you about what Ted Cruz told me. I asked him about the fact that his resume on many levels looks a whole lot like your former candidate, Barack Obama's. There is an experience gap when it comes to not just him but several of these senators who are really, really new.

LABOLT: Well, first I'd like to make clear that I'm endorsing Ted Cruz and supporting him -

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: I'm sure you are.

LABOLT: So, I want to get that out of the way.

But secondly, you know, the 2008 primary really came down not to experience but to judgment. Secretary Clinton was running on experience and then Senator Obama was running on his judgment over the Iraq war. And so, you know, Cruz may land on a compelling message if he can find something else that voters are concerned about that's not in the experience base. I think the more important impact he'll have on the primary is really dragging some of the more mainstream candidates like Jeb Bush to the right. That had a significant impact on Mitt Romney during the primaries last time around.

MADDEN: Well, look, I think more and more you are seeing voters sort of have a bit of regret after the eight years of -- of having eight years of Obama, about that ability to offer up, you know, more of a -- an executive experience and I think we're seeing that right now in polls. Voters are saying they would rather see a governor, they want to see somebody with executive experience.

But I think the way that Obama answered that in 2008 is the same way Ted Cruz has to answer it in 2016, which is when people begin to meet him and they begin to see him, test his ideas, does he look and sound like a future president? And that begins to answer the question of doubt in many voters' minds.

BASH: I want to go out to the state of Indiana because there was a big controversy brewing there this week when the governor, Mike Pence, who you know used to be in the House, signed a bill into law that -- it's called the Religious Freedom Bill. But there are a lot of groups that are up in arms especially LGBT groups saying that this is a back doorway to discriminate against them.

Is this a mistake for your party?

MADDEN: Well, look. This is not a -- this is a bill that 20 other states I think have. It's modeled after a 1993 law that was signed into law by President Clinton.

I think the big problem that Mike Pence has here and the folks in Indiana have is that they lost control of the narrative. It was defined as a bill that had to do with sexual discrimination versus what it was supposed to -- designed to be, which was a compelling interest standard for judicial review. And that has become a problem for them politically.

BASH: Yes. I mean, he is right that this is not the first state. There are 20 other states. But this is becoming a business problem which if you're any governor, particularly a Republican governor, that's very dangerous.

LABOLT: I think, that's a really important point. I mean, Pence disagreed with the Chamber of commerce and the largest employer in the state, Eli Lilly on this. And over half of the state you can still be fired for being gay and this goes one step further. We were promised a more inclusive Republican Party after the 2012 election and I don't think it's arrived.

BASH: To be fair, I think this was modeled after a federal bill that -

(CROSSTALK)

[00:09:49] MADDEN: No, there have been other states that have this very -- the law very similar to this where you have ministers in Pennsylvania, for example, they've actually used this in order to protect some of the interests that they had with feeding the homeless in city parks, for example. So, this is about - this is designed to guard against government overreach against people and their religion.

BASH: OK. I want you to stand by. We can't go without talking about the big surprise new this week, Harry Reid, the Democratic leader saying that he's not going to run for reelection.

I had the good fortune of visiting with him in his hometown of Searchlight, which is a very small town, basically a truck stop, and listening to him tell me about his hard scramble life.

Here is a part of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Welcome to Searchlight.

BASH: Thank you.

BASH (voice-over): Harry Reid shaked and scared in Searchlight.

REID: I'm a pessimist about everything in life that way I have fewer disappointments.

BASH (voice-over): In a distance of this vast property a mine where his father worked.

REID: It was hard to make a living and the man that my dad worked for a lot of times wouldn't (ph) pay him, were giving bad checks that would bounce.

BASH (voice-over): The memories can hurt.

REID: My parents both drank a lot and I was always so glad when they were broke because they couldn't afford stuff then. Even though I was raised here, my mother always was able to instill in me that I was as good as anybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: And Ben, I know you worked briefly in the Senate but obviously as a Democrat in this town, I'm sure, it's hard to imagine life without Harry Reid. And what I think is fascinating from your perch is somebody worked for Obama is that he quietly encouraged him, this very young, very green senator to run for president.

LABOLT: Yes, they had an incredibly good relationship and I think their legacies are inextricably tied. Reid was the master of the inside game and without him we wouldn't have seen the Affordable Care Act passed or federal bench remade. So, I think all Democrats were taken aback by the news this week.

MADDEN: Well, because he was instrumental in passing the ACA, a lot of Republicans are very - I think is as great as his life story may be, they are happy to see him retire. There is not a lot of love lost for Harry Reid up on the Republican side in the Senate.

BASH: No. I'm sure not. But he actually did have not a terrible relationship with some of the Republicans. I mean, Mitch McConnell not so much but with John Boehner. Do you want to say something about Harry Reid as John Boehner? Because I know you do a great John Boehner imitation (ph).

MADDEN: Harry, good luck and good-bye.

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: That's pretty good. That's pretty impressive. Thank you guys very much. Kevin Madden, Ben Labolt...

MADDEN: Thank you (INAUDIBLE).

LABOLT: Thank you.

BASH: ...appreciate it.

BASH: And up next, house speaker, the real house speaker John Boehner lets us in on his secret passion. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:09:56] BASH: The job of the house speaker comes with a beautiful office and a great scenic view of the Capitol ground.

After our conversation the speaker brought us to his balcony and revealed a surprise reason why it's a setting that's really special to him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: This is probably the best view in Washington, the best real else in Washington. And so every once in awhile I'll come out here and actually chill out.

BASH: Really?

BOEHNER: Yes, not very often because it's usually too hot or too cold out here.

BASH: Do you bring people out here to do business?

BOEHNER: There have been people out here that have done business.

BASH: (INAUDIBLE).

BOEHNER: Just sit there at the table and chair and check everything out, but no, usually when I'm out here, they are more enjoyable moments.

BASH: Oh, that's nice. That's nice.

BOEHNER: I'm pretty (INAUDIBLE) about my grass and so what I love about the spring is when I watch the grass down the mall (ph) begin to green up.

BASH: It's getting there (ph).

BOEHNER: Yes, I get pretty excited about it.

BASH: Yes?

BOEHNER: Yes.

BASH: Because we know you like to cut your grass.

BOEHNER: I do. I do.

Matter of fact, I had the lawn mower running last weekend.

BASH: Yes.

BOEHNER: Yes. Made sure the oil was changed and sharpened the blade and put some new gas in there and got it started. Grass isn't ready to be cut yet but the mower is ready.

BASH: Amen.

BOEHNER: Amen.

END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And Mr. Speaker, if you like yard work that much, I've got a backyard at my house with your name on it. Come over and help me.

We're going to be right back after these messages.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:10:00] BASH: Thanks for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Dana Bash in Washington.

Fareed Zakaria, "GPS," starts now.