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State of the Union

Interview With David Axelrod; Interview With John Boehner

Aired March 14, 2010 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: You can tell things are coming to a head in Washington when the decibel level rises, and it has. Remember the sometimes frustrated but cool arbiter in chief at the bipartisan summit on health care reform.


OBAMA: What I am hoping to accomplish today is for everybody to focus not just on where we differ, but focus on where we agree.


CROWLEY: A week later at the White House, he gave it the presidential touch with a little edge.


OBAMA: For us to start over now could simply lead to a delay that could last for another decade or even more. The American people and the U.S. economy just can't wait that long.


CROWLEY: And then this past Monday, he took his health care message on the road.


OBAMA: I am a little warm here.


CROWLEY: And before a college audience in Pennsylvania, the president let loose.


OBAMA: We need to give families and businesses more control over their own health insurance, and that's why we need to pass health care reform. Not next year, not five years from now, not ten years from now, but now!


CROWLEY: Ratcheting up the volume. Of all the previous do or die weeks, this may actually be one. It has taken a year to get here, but it's now crunch time. I am Candy Crowley, and this is State of the Union.


CROWLEY: This morning, his office is just steps away from the commander in chief. David Axelrod, President Obama's closest confidant and his main man on the message.

AXELROD: I think the American people say, you know what, let the vote be held, let the majority rule and let's move on.

CROWLEY: And John Boehner, the House Republican leader with a message of his own.

BOEHNER: I am doing everything that I can to prevent this bill from becoming law, plain and simple.


CROWLEY: Surprise, surprise, Washington is on its way to missing another deadline. Last Sunday we showed you a calendar that gave the House 10 days to pass a health care package before the president left for an overseas trip Thursday, March 18th. Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, had said we are on schedule to get something done before we leave. Oops, no can do on Capitol Hill. And the House Democratic leadership seemed unappreciative of the White House attempt to schedule the House calendar, so the president change his to leave three days later, now departing on his South Pacific trip the 21st. The new itinerary suggests that Mr. Obama is needed to hard sell wavering Democrats, and/or he wants to be around for the victory lap.


PELOSI: I am delighted that the president will be here for the passage of the bill. It is going to be historic, and it would not be possible without his tremendous, tremendous leadership.


CROWLEY: As for a second package that contains House fixes to the Senate bill, that has to go back to the Senate for passage. The way these things go, with the Senate scheduled to leave Friday the 26th for Easter recess, figure on a vote Saturday the 27th or later.

And who better to explain how the president plans to push health care reform across the finish line is senior White House adviser David Axelrod. David, it's good to see you.

So, I have a very hard time believing that any president would delay an overseas trip for three days unless he knew that he was going to get this.

AXELROD: Well, we are very optimistic about the outcome of this process. I think people have come to the realization that this is the moment, and if we don't act now, there will be dire consequences for people all over this country in terms of higher rates, in terms of being excluded from health care if they have preexisting conditions or being thrown off of their health care if they become sick, dire consequences for small businesses who are being priced out of the insurance market today, individuals who are being priced out of the insurance market today. We just saw rate increases announced in California up to 39 percent, Illinois, 60 percent. This is the future if we don't act. And the sense of urgency has overtaken the process here, I think.

CROWLEY: Bottom line, he has got the votes?

AXELROD: Oh, I think he will -- I think we will have the votes to pass this. Obviously, this is a struggle. Look, the lobbyists for the insurance industry have landed on Capitol Hill like locusts, and they are going to be doing everything they can in the next week to try and muscle people into voting. Many on the other side of the aisle have decided that it would be a political victory for them if health insurance reform were defeated, so it's a -- it's a struggle, but I believe we are moving in the right direction.

CROWLEY: We have heard from those Democrats on the House side who object to the Senate language on abortion, and they pretty much, as far as we can tell, have kind of been written off, that language can't change. I want to -- a new thing has come up, at least a new old thing, from Congressman Gutierrez. I want to read it to you. "It's no secret that I have been critical of proposals that would exclude our nation's hard-working immigrants from the health care exchange, and I would find it extremely difficult if not impossible to vote for any measure that denies undocumented workers health care purchased with their own dollars." Again, Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez.

Is the president OK with a provision in the Senate bill which refuses to allow undocumented workers to buy with their own money health care insurance?

AXELROD: Well, first of all, understand, legal immigrants will be eligible for the exchange. The president's view, and he's expressed it to Congressman Gutierrez and others, is that this is not the vehicle through which to address our immigration issue.

CROWLEY: Might you address it in the immigration bill?

AXELROD: Well, obviously, if we resolve the status of the undocumented workers here, then the issue will be a nonissue. But this is not the place for this, nor is it the place to resolve the disputes over abortion. And the president's view on that was, let's not change the law, let's leave it exactly as it is, and that's what the bill does. So I believe that as the week goes on, these issues will clarify themselves. And we will be able to put together a coalition to pass this.

CROWLEY: So you might do a fix in an immigration bill, by bringing them into the system and making them--

AXELROD: Once -- we have to resolve the larger question, which is the status of undocumented workers in this country. And that's another complicated issue. But we can't resolve it within the context of this debate.

CROWLEY: I want to play a little something that your boss said earlier this week.


OBAMA: Right now the Washington echo chamber is in full throttle. It's as deafening as it has ever been. And as we come to that final vote, that echo chamber is telling members of Congress, well, think about the politics. Instead of thinking about doing the right thing. (END VIDEO CLIP)

AXELROD: If your re-election is in 2010, this is tough for a Democratic congressman in a swing district, you are basically saying, you know what, it doesn't matter if you get your job back.


AXELROD: You see, that's -- that is the spin out there, and certainly that's the spin -- Mitch McConnell has been generous, John Boehner, the Republican leaders, in giving advice to Democrats about how perilous this vote is. I wonder what their motivations are in offering us advice about how to strengthen our party. But leaving that aside, the reality is that we have passed these bills through the House and the Senate. The Republican candidates are going to campaign against us on it. The question is, we have got the vote, are we going to have the achievement, are we going to have the accomplishment?

When the president signs this bill, this year, children with preexisting conditions will no longer be excluded from health care. Caps will be taken off, lifetime caps and annual caps on insurance coverage. The donut hole -- the donut hole will be filled in. The health and the solvency of Medicare will be extended. There is a range -- and most --small businesses will get tax credits to help pay for health care for their employees.

So I am happy to allow the Republican candidates to say we are going to take to that child who got health care, no, you know what, we don't really think you should have it. Or to the small business saying, you know, you don't really need that tax credit to help you buy health care. Or to people who have more security in their relationships with their insurance companies, you know, we are going to put the insurance companies back in the driver's seat. If they want to have that fight, let's have that fight.

CROWLEY: We have had some polling in recent weeks at CNN that show that more than 70 percent of Americans said either start over again or stop working on this. You all have responded by saying, at least in the White House privately and on the background, listen, we think people will like this bill once it's out there, once they see some of the things that you just delineated.

AXELROD: That's not speculative, Candy. That is also based on polling which says that when you give people -- when you describe the individual components of the bill, that people are very enthusiastic about it, so it's not speculative on our part.

CROWLEY: I just want to read you something. This was in the Washington Post from a former Carter pollster and a former Clinton pollster, who wrote, "Their" -- meaning the White House -- "blind persistence in the face of reality threatens to turn this political march of folly into an electoral rout in November. The notion that once enactment is forced, the public will suddenly embrace health care reform could not be further from the truth."

AXELROD: Right, and I saw that column and I know those guys, I've known them for years. One of them works for a firm that works for insurance companies. So you know, I -- they are entitled to their point of view.

I noticed there was virtually no numbers cited in that poll. This was conjecture and speculation on their part. I think they are wrong about that. I think there is ample reason to believe that they are wrong about that. That same poll of yours that you cited, basically you could spin the numbers the other way and say three quarters of the people who were questioned wanted us to get something done on health reform. 70 to 80 percent of people in this country say we need health reform because they are living it every day. The small businesses and people who don't get it through the job, health insurance, who can't get it, people who are being abused by their health insurance companies. They need health insurance reform.

So this brings me to the president's point. Which -- his point was really that the question always comes to me, what does this mean for the president, what does this mean for the Congress? The question is what does it mean for the American people? And what is the consequences of letting these problems fester? We know what's going to happen. We see a preview in these rate increases. There is a new report coming out that says a third of small businesses will drop coverage in the next 10 years. We're going to have 10 million more people without insurance coverage in the next ten years. People will continue to get thrown off their insurance if they get sick, they will continue to be excluded if they have preexisting conditions. This is not the future the American people want. It's not the future they deserve, and it's worth a fight.

CROWLEY: David Axelrod, stick with us. We are going to take a quick break and we will be back with much more about politics, the future of the Guantanamo Bay prison, and the trial of the 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.


CROWLEY: We are back with the White House senior adviser, David Axelrod.

Turning to the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Are you going to put that in a civilian court or in a military tribunal?

AXELROD: Candy, that decision has not been made yet. And that decision will be made-- CROWLEY: When -- what are you basing it on? I mean, it has been a while. I mean, you know they don't want it in New York. What are you weighing?

AXELROD: Well, obviously there are a series of things that have to weigh. You are right, the original decision was to try him in New York. Local authorities were receptive there at the beginning, they changed their view on that. That has to influence our thinking. The question becomes what are their -- what possible venues would there be? And is it worth reviewing the entire decision? The attorney general said at the beginning, when he announced those -- the venue and the trial in Article 3 courts that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, under the protocols that he and the Department of Defense had developed, could have been tried in either a military commission or an Article 3 court. So we have a range of options.

CROWLEY: So you are at least considering it. Let me ask you about the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Two months since -- first in January, I believe, when the president said I am going to close this by next January. We are two months past that. When is Gitmo closing?

AXELROD: Well, obviously, there are a series of issues related to this, some of them legislative, that have to be dealt with. We have made good progress. You know, when we got there, the legal status of many of the people there was unclear. We had to go through a process of really sorting all of these cases out. We are beginning to work those cases.

CROWLEY: A couple months you think?

AXELROD: Well, I don't know. I am not going to put a date on it. It's just going to take -- it's going to take a little time, but I am absolutely convinced we are going to get that done. It's important that we get that done. Our military people in the field, General Petraeus and others, have said that it's important for them for us to get it done, and we will.

CROWLEY: On Afghanistan, how seriously is this administration considering direct talks with the Taliban?

AXELROD: Well, we support the reintegration of low level fighters--

CROWLEY: What about talks?

AXELROD: -- which is under way. That's something that we will -- ultimately the lead on that will have to be taken by the Afghan government, and we will work with them on that. I don't think we are at that point yet.

CROWLEY: Will the U.S. have direct talks?

AXELROD: But that's -- well, again, the Afghan government will have to take the lead in that discussion. But, Candy, when you look at Iraq, for example, there is always as part of this process, political reconciliation, and there may come a point when that is -- when that comes into play, so long as people are willing to renounce violence, so long as they renounce contact with Al Qaida, so long as they support the constitution of Afghanistan. But that's down the line.

CROWLEY: There has been, just on the politics, internal politics in the Obama administration, you have seen just a series of stories about you and your relationship with Rahm Emanuel. You're portrayed sometimes as a blind loyalist, you know, sort of like up in the clouds, and he is sort of either a hero or goat (ph) because he is the pragmatist. What's your relationship with Rahm Emanuel? AXELROD: Well, first of all, Rahm has been my dear friend for 30 years. We both come from Chicago. We've worked together time and time again. I did his campaigns for Congress, and beyond that, he is a very close personal friend of mine. And I have enormous respect for him. He is a tremendous asset to this administration. I think he has been incredibly faithful to the vision of the president, and many of the things we achieved we would not have achieved without his leadership. So these stories are what Washington does when people think there are political challenges, then the palace intrigue stories get written and so on. We are a tight group. We are all committed to the same thing, and I would discount those stories.

CROWLEY: David Axelrod, come back and see us sometime. I appreciate it.

AXELROD: Thank you so much. It's good to be here.

CROWLEY: When we come back, a look at why the Democrats are still short of the certain votes to pass health care reform. Then, House GOP Leader John Boehner on why Republicans in Congress are saying no.


CROWLEY: A quick chalk talk on what the House Democrats need to pass the Senate bill. No Republican is expected to vote for health care reform, but the Democrats have a huge advantage in the House. Of 253, only 216 have to vote yea. If that sounds like it would be easy, check it out. The Democrats might pull this off, but let's do the math. 37 Democrats voted no to the House version last November. If they vote no this time, we are exactly at 216, no margin for error. But that does not take into account the furor over abortion. Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak claims there are as many as 12 more Democrats who will vote no on this bill because they believe it allows federal money to be spent on abortions. So take away 12 votes, and we are now at 204 yeas. In order to get health care reform to add up, President Obama might have to get as many as 12 who voted no in November to vote yes this week. The math is no fun.

In a moment, Republican leader, John Boehner.


CROWLEY: As we explained before the break, in order to get a health care bill passed, Democrats in Congress are going to have to go it alone. His party may be in the minority, but House Republican Leader John Boehner is heading a solid wall of opposition. I spoke with him on Friday at the Capitol.


CROWLEY: First of all, thank you so much for joining us -- I appreciate it.

BOEHNER: Glad to be with you.

CROWLEY: I heard something the other day from the president and knowing I was going to come here and interview you, we pulled it because I wanted to get your reaction to it.


OBAMA: I know a lot of people view this as a partisan issue, but both parties have found areas where we agree. What we've ended up with is a proposal that's somewhere in the middle. One that incorporates the best from Democrats and Republicans. The best ideas.


BOEHNER: Somewhere in the middle? He may have taken a couple of Republican ideas, and then put them into his 2,733 page bill, but this -- this bill is nowhere close to the middle.

CROWLEY: They did take the idea of undercover agents to check into Medicare fraud. There's no public option, which Republicans and many Democrats hated. There are pilot programs for medical malpractice reform. There is insurance industry reform, which you all are for having to do with caps on lifetime benefits, and that kind of thing.

And there's tax credits for small businesses. Why isn't that enough?

BOEHNER: We -- we could come to an agreement on probably eight or ten common sense steps that you've outlined to make our health care system better. But we can't come to agreement on eight or 10 things, and throw them into a 2,700 page bill and -- and ask my -- and ask my colleagues to vote for $500 billion worth of Medicare cuts that aren't going back into saving Medicare. They're going to come out of Medicare in order to pay for this new entitlement program.

Five hundred billion dollars in higher taxes at a time when we're asking Americans to reinvest in the economy. But no, the government wants to create this new entitlement program.

CROWLEY: But also, looking at the scoring from CBO of the House and the Senate, it says it brings the deficit down. But if you take this comprehensive look, which a lot of people argue on the Democratic side you have to have a comprehensive look, because everything is kind of connected it to everything else. So if you're looking at two bills, and they'll come out somewhere with parts of all of them, that are going to bring down the deficit, isn't that something you support?

BOEHNER: Well, I'm highly skeptical of these so-called CBO numbers that bring down the deficit. And I say that because--

CROWLEY: But aren't they the gold standard?

BOEHNER: -- there is a -- there is a number of -- of steps in this bill where they're double counting the savings. I just think that's inappropriate. Listen, the American people want us to do something about the cost of health insurance. This bill will raise the cost of health insurance. And all -- even according to CBO, and all the outside estimates, is that if you already have health insurance, you're going to pay more under their proposal.

CROWLEY: I don't -- I don't want to get too far into the weeds. But we do know that there have also been studies showing that with government subsidies people will be able to buy more insurance. And in that sense it may go up. But insurance policy versus the same insurance policy, it'll go down. So that's -- that's another study. And I don't -- I don't want to--


BOEHNER: But Candy, but Candy you know, you talk about their bill supposedly bringing down the deficit. Let's remember there are 10 years worth of tax increases and Medicare cuts, and only six years of additional benefits.

CROWLEY: You don't think there's enough waste, fraud, and abuse in Medicare to pay for that -- when you're looking at the cuts in Medicare. You don't think there's that much waste, fraud, and abuse?

BOEHNER: If there's -- if there's money to be saved in Medicare, and I believe there is, it ought to be returned to the Medicare program to extend the life of the program. Not be used to start a new entitlement program.

CROWLEY: They look as though -- they certainly have the numbers to pass this -- the Democrats.

BOEHNER: Really? Listen, they've got 40 more Democrats in the House than they have Republicans. They've got, you know, 59 -- or they've got 19 more Democrats in the Senate of -- or 18 than they have Republicans. And they can pass this all on their own. The only bipartisanship that's involved in this town right now on -- with regard to health care, is there is bipartisan opposition to what they're attempting to do.

CROWLEY: You don't -- but, do you think -- because you're a pretty good vote counter -- does she have 216, the speaker?

BOEHNER: If she had 216 votes, this bill would be long gone. And remember, they tried to do this in June and July last year. If they had the votes, then it would be law. They tried to pass it in September, October, November, December, January, February. Guess what? They don't have the votes.

The American people don't want to take the step toward government run health insurance. It's a dangerous step, because we do have the best health care system in the world.

CROWLEY: I want to point out that the Democrats clearly have argued and will argue that it's not a government run program. That if you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance.

BOEHNER: Well, that's not true, though.



BOEHNER: It's one of those things that keeps being said, but it's not true, and here's why. First, if -- with the employer mandate, some employer is going to look at this, at the penalty and say, you know I spent a lot more than that providing health care to my employees. And so I'm going to drop it. Forcing -- force-- (CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: But they'll have a menu of choices to pick out.


BOEHNER: Forcing you then to go to the health exchange.


BOEHNER: And -- and so, you can't keep it.

CROWLEY: But they will have a menu of choices the way this is set out. Three or four in this exchange where people can look at and then pick something from that. Would you -- you agree with that?

BOEHNER: A government run exchange. That the expectation is you'll have three or four plans as designed by the federal government.

CROWLEY: What's the Republican role now on the House side? What is there left for you all to do?

BOEHNER: I'm doing everything I can to prevent this bill from becoming law. Plain and simple. We have offered our ideas.

CROWLEY: And what do you do?

BOEHNER: We've asked the president to sit down and work with us.

They have refused all the way through the process. And--

CROWLEY: You had the summit.

BOEHNER: Oh, they had the summit. We offered our ideas.

CROWLEY: And he incorporated some, did he not?

BOEHNER: That -- and -- and took a couple of Republican bread crumbs and put them on top of their 2,700 page bill. That's not good enough. And so while -- what I'm doing is working with my colleagues to keep the American people engaged in this fight.

I don't have enough votes on my side of the aisle to stop the bill.

But I, along with a majority of the American people who are opposed to this, can stop this bill. And we're going to do everything we can to make it difficult for them, if not impossible to pass the bill.


CROWLEY: When we come back, House Republican Leader Boehner on how he sees politics playing out in this year's midterm, and the scandal that forced out Congressman Eric Massa.


LARRY KING, CNN: So you did grope someone, right?

MASSA: Larry, when you grab someone and you're wrestling, I don't know how to describe that word.



CROWLEY: Welcome back to State of the Union, continuing now with part two of my interview with House Republican Leader John Boehner.


CROWLEY: I want to shift over to the politics of this and politics in general, because it's that kind of year. And I want to--


BOEHNER: It is -- it is that kind of year.

CROWLEY: Yes, it is. And I want to play you something from a former colleague.


FORMER REP. TOM DELAY: I would like to see more organization, more coordination, more communication on the outside in support of what the Republicans are doing. We have no organization, nothing near what the Democrats have built over the last ten years. They have one of the most powerful political coalitions I have ever seen.


CROWLEY: Now he's talking about Republican organization, and Republican chances. And he said, "Look if they just sit around and do nothing, Republicans will gain seats." But he clearly thinks that Republicans are not organized enough, don't have enough of a framework to take advantage of an anti-incumbent year at any rate. Do you disagree with that?

BOEHNER: To some extent. There's no question that -- that the Democrats have a huge outside organization that pumps hundreds of millions of dollars into the political process outside of the campaign finance rules. But I can tell you this, we've got more candidates than we've ever had. We've got better candidates than we ever had. We have a better process of helping to grow candidates and grow campaigns than we've ever had. No question that we're going to get out spent in this election. But I think that -- that we have a chance at winning Republican control of the House.

CROWLEY: Really?

BOEHNER: And I'm going to do everything I can to see that it happens. CROWLEY: Outside chance? Big chance?

BOEHNER: Listen, it's a steep climb, but it's doable.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about Tea Party candidates, and their role in the Republican party, since they don't necessarily see themselves as Republicans. If you have a Tea Party candidate that challenges a moderate in a swing district -- a moderate Republican, a couple of things might happen. The moderate Republican might be so damaged that it's hard for him to win -- him or her to win in a swing district.

Or the Tea Party candidate has -- had to swing so far to the conservative side that they're not that appealing in a moderate district. Are you worried about those Tea Party candidates?

BOEHNER: No. I think competition is a good thing. You know, I've got 11 brothers and sisters. I learned about competition early on. But it makes everybody better. And so we've had Tea Party candidates in primaries. More competition the better.

CROWLEY: New York 23 -- you lost a seat.

BOEHNER: Well, that was a very unusual situation, because the candidate wasn't picked in a primary. It was picked by a handful of party bosses in a back room somewhere. It didn't work real well. But when it comes to the Tea Party folks, I think our job is to listen to them. And I'm going to listen to them. I'm going to walk with them, and do everything I can to have them -- interest them in working with us to bring about a smaller, less costly, and more accountable government here in Washington.

CROWLEY: So do you basically welcome challenges from the Tea Party to some of your sitting Republicans?

BOEHNER: Listen, when I talked about the number of candidates we have -- give you an example. We've got 94 of the top 100 competitive districts with one or more candidates in the race. And in most cases it's more than one. There's a lot of interest around the country. People want to take a more active role. And I think -- I think that we ought to welcome that type of involvement and activity. CROWLEY: Let me ask you two sort of other issue questions. The Massa investigation. You won an overwhelming bipartisan support to tell the Ethics Committee to look at what the leadership knew about the alleged inappropriate behavior by former Congressman Massa. What is the end -- what do you want out of this?

BOEHNER: We have seen the trust break down between the American people and their Congress. And it's been clear to me for some time that we have to work here in this institution to rebuild those bonds of trust. And when -- when -- when things like this happen, those who are responsible ought to be held accountable. And -- and the case with the member himself, he's resigned.

But it's also pretty clear that there are a lot of people, including some of the leaders on the Democrat side who were in fact informed of this.

CROWLEY: And if they were, what happens, do you think?

BOEHNER: Did they take the appropriate action?

CROWLEY: And if they didn't?

BOEHNER: And if they didn't, then they should suffer the consequences.

CROWLEY: Which is?

BOEHNER: I -- I don't know what -- I don't know what the answers are. All I'm asking for is the Ethics Committee to get to the bottom of what did people know, when did they know it, and what did they do about it?

CROWLEY: Do you want to go down this road, because Republicans are not -- in -- in fact 2006 was one of the reasons given for what was essentially just a swamping of Republican candidates was ethical problems. Is this something you want to do now? Because it's going to bring up all of the Republican misbehavior.

BOEHNER: I -- when I took over as leader a little over two years ago, I told my colleagues that I was going to hold them to a higher standard. The American people have every right to expect the highest ethical standards from their elected officials. And it's in that pursuit that -- that I think that this investigation is warranted. I don't know what the outcome is going to be. But I think that the American people deserve the answers. And I that think the Congress deserves the answers.

CROWLEY: One last question, and this is on terrorism. And Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and civilian trials versus military tribunals. It appears that there may be a deal in the works which the president would reverse the Holder decision -- Attorney General Holder's decision to try these 9-11 suspects in a civilian court to perhaps a military tribunal in exchange for money to bring some of these prisoners they can't try and put them in a super-max wherever they decide. Is that acceptable to you? BOEHNER: We'll have to see what the final pieces of this look like. But we have -- we have a world class facility at Guantanamo. And -- and--


CROWLEY: But they're going to close that. You know that? I mean--

BOEHNER: Well, no they're not. They -- they keep saying they are. But they want $500 million from this Congress to rehabilitate this prison in northwest Illinois. I want to see who the members are who are going to vote for this. I wouldn't vote for this if you put a gun to my head. CROWLEY: But it's such a -- Guantanamo Bay has such a bad feel to it across the world. And that's one of the reasons given for -- fine -- it's a great facility. But it's one of the reasons that people in the world looked at America and thought they have really strayed from their value system.

So if you were to move -- which has been a very important Republican point on foreign policy. If you were to move these trials into a military tribunal, why not say, "Fine, bring them? Guantanamo Bay has a bad feel to it. Let's put them in a super max and be done with it."

BOEHNER: Well, I think we have a world class facility at Guantanamo. I think it's the appropriate -- appropriate place to hold these prisoners. And they can do the -- the tribunals right there at Guantanamo. There is no reason to bring these terrorists into the United States. No reason to increase the threat level here, because they're here. Their friends may want to come. It makes no sense to me. And I don't think the Congress will appropriate one dime to move those prisoners from Guantanamo to the United States.

CROWLEY: I appreciate your time.

BOEHNER: Nice to see you.

CROWLEY: Thank you so much.


CROWLEY: Up next in our "American Dispatch," letters to a young widow.







CROWLEY: A book came out this week that presents a remarkable window into a nation's relationship with the first family, "Letters to Jackie." In the wake of the 1963 assassination of President John Kennedy, a million and a half Americans wrote his young widow. Historian Ellen Fitzpatrick picked 250 letters that captured the outpouring. Producer Natalie Edsell (ph) found four who wrote nearly 50 years ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JANE DRYDEN: Dear Mrs. Kennedy, I know that you hate the whole state of Texas. I do, too. I wish I lived in Washington, D.C., where maybe I could maybe see you standing on your porch. They say I look like you, too, although I am a blond and wear glasses. I love you more than anyone, and I have an urge all the time to go to Washington to maybe see you.

I started writing Mrs. Kennedy that week, and I wrote her once a week for six months.

MARY SOUTH: Dear Mrs. Kennedy, as I sat watching the TV set this afternoon, I decided to write to you and to extend my sincere sorrow and that of my fellow eighth graders at St. Claire School, California. I firmly believe that your husband is sitting up in heaven right next to Lincoln.

It was two days afterwards. I think I said to my mother, do you think I could write a letter? Do you think that would -- would it get to Mrs. Kennedy if I wrote a letter? And she said, well, try.

MARILYN DAVENPORT, HOUSEWIFE, LONG ISLAND, NY: Dear Jackie, since I can't say hello to you in person as I'd like to do, I sent this special card to say I'm thinking of you anyway. I know you will never be in need of a friend, but if you ever want a new one to talk to, I'm a very good listener.

It was just the compassion that you felt. And not pity, it was a love of friendship.

HARRIS WOFFORD, PEACE CORPS, ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA: You know the admiration and respect, the devotion I had for your husband. Now you should know that in addition to all the sympathy in the world, this universal admiration and respect is yours.

One of the special things that John Kennedy did was launch the Peace Corps. And Jacqueline Kennedy was always a champion, interested in meeting the volunteers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It has really allowed me an opportunity to reflect on sort of a continuous thread in my life of being -- of working in the context with people that are suffering. That is what my life's work has become.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mailed it and it made me feel a little bit better. And then weeks later, maybe months later, I got a response from the White House. A little white card, piped in black, and a very simple line from Mrs. Kennedy. And that was a treasure.

DAVENPORT: It was a great surprise to be -- to have my letter there out of -- when there were so many that could have been chosen.

WOFFORD: I think that conceivably that letter is one of the reasons that decades later when I ran and won election to the Senate of the United States, she campaigned hard for me. I feel privileged to be in this book of marvelous letters, from the first digging into those letters, which I'm going to take home tonight and see if I can read without tears.



CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley, this is STATE OF THE UNION. Checking some of the stories breaking this Sunday morning.

A strong 6.6-magnitude earthquake shook central Japan today. The quake hit off of the country's east coast, rattling buildings 125 miles away in Tokyo. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage. And the government said there is no danger of a tsunami.

In Afghanistan, a call for more Afghan troops from Kandahar's provincial government. This after a series of bombings yesterday left at least 35 people dead and another 57 wounded in the provincial capital. Residents of Kandahar say the Taliban operate there with little restraint. NATO considers the province the insurgents' last stronghold that is the target of the war's next major offensive by Afghan and international forces.

Israel's prime minister says he's launching an investigation into how a controversial new settlement project was announced right when Vice President Joe Biden was visiting the country. The plans to build 1,600 new apartments for Jews in contested East Jerusalem infuriated U.S. officials. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the announcement insulting to the U.S. and a setback to the peace process. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the timing was unintentional.

A deadly avalanche in western Canada. Authorities say at least three people were killed and 17 injured when an avalanche hit a snowmobile competition in British Columbia yesterday. An unknown number of people are still missing. Rescue operations were suspended for the night, but they are scheduled to resume today.

A brutal storm is hammering much of the northeastern U.S. Heavy rains and hurricane force winds slammed the region yesterday, leaving more than a half million people without power. At least one person was killed and three were injured when a tree fell on a car in Connecticut. The storm will continue to batter the area throughout the day, flooding remains a threat.

Those are your top stories here on STATE OF THE UNION.

We generally focus on health care as an issue before the U.S. Congress, but it also looms large for state governments. One of our researchers ran across an example from New York State, both funny and tragic.


CROWLEY (voice-over): This Internet ad was produced to portray New York Governor David Paterson as the monster Godzilla. This was produced by the association representing the New York Hospital and Health Systems. The protest centers on what is expected to be $1 billion in taxes and cuts to health care in New York State. Twenty- nine states have had to make cuts in health services for the upcoming fiscal year.


CROWLEY: Here in Washington, we could be watching the last act in our open-ended drama. The president will keep the rhetoric hot and pressure on when he stumps for health care reform tomorrow in Strongsville, Ohio. The House hopes for a vote as early as Thursday, which may turn into late Saturday. Next Sunday's program will be very, very interesting.

Thank you for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. For our INTERNATIONAL viewers, "WORLD REPORT" is next. For everyone else, "FAREED ZAKARIA: GPS" starts right now.