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State of the Union
Interviews With Senators Lieberman, Murkowski, Feinstein and Lugar
Aired June 20, 2010 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: More than seven weeks into the crisis in the Gulf, a question arises in Washington. Is the middle of a crisis in the midst of an election year a good time to make policy or an opportune time to play politics? We're about to find out.
Last week the president visited the Gulf, met with the head of BP, and gave a nationwide address, spending almost half of his time talking about the need for energy reform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America's innovation and seize control of our own destiny.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: This week the president plans to bring Democrats and Republicans to the White House to try and get major energy legislation back on track. The effort comes as the catastrophe in the Gulf undercuts trust in the competence of the federal government. A CNN poll found 25 percent of Americans approve of the way the government is handling the oil crisis, 74 percent disapprove. It's a sour environment in which to do business. Energy reform is a heavy lift.
CROWLEY (voice-over): Today the leader of the push for energy reform, independent Senator Joseph Lieberman.
LIEBERMAN: Doing nothing in the face of the crisis we're facing means continued dependence on oil.
CROWLEY: And the ranking Republican on the energy committee, Senator Lisa Murkowski.
MURKOWSKI: You cannot have an indefinite moratoria out there and still talk about energy security in the same sentence.
CROWLEY: It has been pushed from the headlines by the oil catastrophe, but the war has grown deadlier, and more complicated. What next with veteran senators Dianne Feinstein...
FEINSTEIN: If you lose Afghanistan, Pakistan is the next step. CROWLEY: ... and Richard Lugar.
LUGAR: I think the president is going to have to redefine the plan.
CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley, and this is STATE OF THE UNION.
(END VIDEOTAPE) CROWLEY: The house passed a major energy bill almost a year ago but the effort in the Senate has stalled over efforts to find a meeting ground between those that want to limit carbon dioxide emissions, and critics, Republicans and Democrats, who say the caps will drive up energy prices and cost jobs.
Taking up a contentious issue in an election year is difficult. And the question is whether it's even possible to get a limited bill. Along with John Kerry, Joe Lieberman is leading the Senate effort to put together an energy package. Senator Lieberman joins us now.
Thank you so much.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Candy.
CROWLEY: Well, let me start a little off topic, but I want to get your impressions of how the president has been handling this BP catastrophe down in the Gulf. And I ask you because I want to show you a poll here from last week, CNN/Opinion Research poll, that shows that those who approve of the way the president is handling it, now just 41 percent, while 59 percent disapprove. What has the president done wrong?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I think the problem obviously is that the oil is still gushing out of that well, a mile under the Gulf. To me the big mistakes made here were made before the accident. The big mistakes were made by the Minerals Management Services of the federal government that has a responsibility to approve oil spill response plans by the oil companies like BP before they will let them drill.
And the plan that BP submitted we now know was a joke. There was one man somewhere who does these plans for everybody, they are all the same, and they are not real. But I will say...
CROWLEY: Is it the lack of -- lack of a good plan, is that on the Obama administration?
LIEBERMAN: Well, it's certainly on the Minerals Management Service, and the president is the president. So even though this goes back years, it's happening now. And I think the critical thing is that he has got to make sure that it doesn't happen again. Nobody -- I am not surprised that the public is dissatisfied with the president and the federal government, because the oil is still gushing.
And that's because neither BP or the federal government were ready for a spill of this kind. We learned after the Exxon Valdez how to contain -- prevent and contain oil spills on the surface of the water. We never should have allowed these people to drill a mile under the water without having a better idea of what they were going to do in the case of an accident.
And there is a lot of evidence growing now that BP, more than other oil companies who are doing deep-water drilling, was cutting corners to save money, and that this disaster was just waiting to happen. I think one of the things the president ought to do in response to the crisis, is to take a look at who in the federal government has what responsibilities.
Oddly, the Coast Guard approves the rigs on the top of water, and the the oil response -- spill response plans for that. Department of Interior has to approve the deep-water oil wells down below. I think we've got to consolidate that in one agency.
And unless somebody can prove to me that the Minerals Management Service can do a better job than it has done, I'd put my confidence in the Coast Guard. Let's let the Coast Guard have broad responsibility for preventing oil spills and then getting ready, better than they obviously were this time, to stop them once they start.
CROWLEY: Let me move you to energy policy, because you have been in the forefront of putting together a bill up on Capitol Hill. The president says, well, now is a great time. Everybody is looking at this oil spill, going, holy cow, we need to find alternative sources for energy.
But, Senator, we are in the middle of the election year.
CROWLEY: How many presidents have called for energy reform? Someone in the crew was telling me that Jon Stewart did a bit last night, went back to Nixon, almost the same language all the way through. Tell me realistically, does comprehensive energy reform even have a chance this year?
LIEBERMAN: Yes, it does have a chance. And it needs to be done. And really it needs to be not just a kind of false energy bill, that is one that gets a few good things done, but doesn't change the equation, doesn't break our dependence on oil, particularly foreign oil, doesn't create new jobs, doesn't clean up the environment, and that's the judgment we have.
I'll tell you what my count is in the Senate. There are 50 -- in my opinion, there are about 50 senators who want to vote for a strong comprehensive energy bill that puts a price on carbon pollution. There are 30 who are set against it and there are 20 undecided.
You have got to get to 60 to pass anything in the Senate. We need half of the undecided and we can do it. And the fact that the president has now made this a priority, and not just in his Oval Office statement last week, but in reaching out during the week on the phone and calling a bipartisan group of us to the White House Wednesday, I think we have got a fighting chance at this.
And we have got to do it. And I hope the spill in the Gulf will motivate us to do it, because the less we depend on oil, the less chance there is of another environmental disaster like this.
CROWLEY: One of the sticking points has been the whole idea of a carbon cap or a carbon tax or however you want to go about that. Richard Lugar, as you know, has a competing energy bill. And he had this to say to me earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUGAR: I don't believe a cap and trade can get through, and therefore we need to think about something else. It's not a perfect solution, but it's one I think that could have bipartisan support.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: So he says his is not a perfect solution, but capping carbon emissions is not going to get through. This is not just because of Republicans, but because of Democrats in states that have a lot of industry with carbon emission. Will you go for something less? Would you go for a compromise. We're hearing Rahm Emanuel -- recently he talked to The Wall Street Journal on Friday and said the ideal of a utilities-only, that is just capping the carbon emissions from utilities, can we go with that?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I would say we -- yes, I would like to look at that. But here is the main point I want to make. The difference between a really strong energy independence bill and one that just is called an energy independence bill, is whether we are willing to put a cap on carbon pollution and a price on carbon pollution.
And let me just briefly explain why. And this is what we hear from business executives. If you put a price on the pollution that carbon emits into our atmosphere, then you are going to create an incentive for hundreds of billions of dollars of private capital to be invested in energy sources and systems that don't put carbon into the atmosphere, like solar and wind and biomass and nuclear.
Right now, all of those jobs are being created elsewhere in the world, in places like China. So we need to put a price on carbon pollution to let the private sector create the jobs in new energy industries we need.
So how do I -- Dick Lugar's proposal for efficiency and using fuel in cars and buildings is a good, positive proposal, but it doesn't...
CROWLEY: But you need the carbon caps of some sort?
LIEBERMAN: And I would like to see if we can put the Lugar proposal, which also Lisa Murkowski's proposal, together with a carbon cap -- carbon pollution cap proposal. And, look, our comprehensive bill, according to all of the independent studies will create half a million new jobs a year, break our dependence on foreign oil by 40 percent, 2 million barrels a day, and clean up the air.
The rest of these proposals will not do that. But if we can all agree on a compromise proposal, as Rahm Emanuel said, that begins with the utilities sector of our economy pricing carbon in it, I think that's a significant step forward to a better, safer country.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you on a couple of other subjects in our final minutes here. First of all, you have an Internet bill, it has been called the "kill switch bill" that would allow the president to seize control or shut down portions of the Internet if the U.S. was under some sort of cyber attack.
I don't know if you have seen the Internet lately...
LIEBERMAN: I have.
CROWLEY: ... but there are a lot of people out there who think that what you are granting the president is absolute power to shut down freedom of speech. I mean, this is just over the top.
LIEBERMAN: No way, and total misinformation. I don't know whether people are intentionally pedalling misinformation. Here is the fact. Cyber war is going on in some sense right now. Our civilian infrastructure, the Internet that runs the electric grid, the telecommunications grid, transportation, all the rest is constantly being probed by nation states, by some terrorist groups, by organized criminal gangs.
And we need this capacity in a time of war. We need the capacity for the president to say, Internet service provider, we've got to disconnect the American Internet from all traffic coming in from another foreign country, or we've got to put a patch on this part of it.
The president will never take over -- the government should never take over the Internet. Listen, we've consulted, Senator Collins and I, who are proposing this bill, with civil liberties and privacy experts. This is a matter of national security. A cyber attack on America can do as much or more damage today by incapacitating our banks, our communications, our finance, our transportation, as a conventional war attack.
And the president, in catastrophic cases -- not going to do it every day, not going to take it over. So I say to my friends on the Internet, relax...
... take a look at the bill. And this is something that we need to protect our country. Right now, China, the government, can disconnect parts of its Internet in a case of war. We need to have that here, too.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you, quickly, a local Connecticut question.
CROWLEY: Would you consider supporting Linda McMahon?
LIEBERMAN: You know, I haven't made any decisions about that. My... CROWLEY: Would you consider, you know, basically supporting a Republican senator in Connecticut?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I've done it before, and it's possible I'll do it again. I'm an independent. But I think there's a high probability that I'm going to spend the rest of this year concentrating on my Senate responsibilities, including...
CROWLEY: You've got to vote sometime.
LIEBERMAN: Yes, and I might just do something refreshing for me this year, vote quietly and privately...
... and let the Connecticut politicians work out that election.
CROWLEY: It's probably safer that way.
Senator Joseph Lieberman, thank you so much. I appreciate your time.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Candy. Great to be with you.
CROWLEY: When we come back, a different perspective from the Senate Energy Committee's top Republican, Lisa Murkowski.
CROWLEY: Joining me now, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy Committee. Good to have you here.
MURKOWSKI: Great to be with you this morning.
CROWLEY: You know, we had B.P. at the White House and B.P. on Capitol Hill. We had the president giving a national address, and then we had the talk of the town, which is showing up in a DNC ad. And I want to play it and then ask you a couple questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: But if Republicans were in charge, this is the guy who'd be overseeing B.P.
REP. JOE L. BARTON, R-TEXAS: I apologize.
ANNOUNCER: He apologized to B.P. and called the recovery fund "a tragedy."
BARTON: So I apologize.
ANNOUNCER: Republicans apologizing to B.P.?
Tell Republicans, stop apologizing to big oil.
The Democratic National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Congressman Joe Barton, obviously in the hearings with B.P.
The Democrats have taken this and run with it, and we are now hearing the chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, saying this was not a gaffe; this is the philosophy of the Republican Party; they are big oil; Wall Street; they are the party of corporations.
What is your response to that?
MURKOWSKI: Couldn't be more wrong -- couldn't be more wrong. The statement that Representative Barton made was wrong, absolutely wrong. He has since apologized for it.
But for -- for the White House, for the administration to be, kind of, running with this as the issue -- let's not forget; we had 11 people die. We have an environmental disaster unfolding. We have an economic disaster that is unfolding.
Let's not be distracted by saying, you know, Joe Barton made this gaffe or this -- this inappropriate comment. Let's focus on what we need to do, which is getting relief to the Gulf, making sure that they have every asset possible, making sure that we've got a claims compensation system that works for them. Let's focus on providing what the people of the Gulf need, not pointing fingers back and forth and saying, oh, you know, what you said was wrong.
CROWLEY: B.P. does a lot of business in Alaska. It brings in a lot of revenue. After watching this fiasco, you had some of your own in Alaska, too, that were B.P.-prompted. Do you trust B.P.?
MURKOWSKI: Well, I tell you, B.P.'s operations in Alaska have all been on land. So you've got the offshore/onshore differences. We have had issues with B.P., serious issues where it was clear that they failed in their responsibility as operators. It was unacceptable. They have been fined mightily.
Now, they have said that they have improved their efforts. That needs to be demonstrated. That needs to be demonstrated. And unfortunately, what we are seeing in the Gulf, and as we learn a little bit more every day about what may have happened, this does not reflect well on B.P.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you about the energy bill. We heard Senator Lieberman earlier say, yes, he could see maybe doing a utilities-only cap, just saying to utilities, you must stay within a certain amount of carbon pollution. Is that something you would accept? MURKOWSKI: It still puts you in the world of cap-and-trade. And this is where we just simply have not been able to get to 60. You have...
CROWLEY: Why not? MURKOWSKI: Well, I think you've got too many people that are looking at this and saying a cap-and-trade, a command-and-control type of a system, at a time like we are in right now, with recession and just a very difficult economy, when we put mandates on and say, you will do thus; we're going to drive jobs overseas; we're going to -- we're going to harm the economy at a time when most of us do not think that that's the appropriate policy.
CROWLEY: So you don't think there should be any carbon tax or any kind of limit put on carbon in a comprehensive energy bill?
MURKOWSKI: I -- I don't think that there is the political ability to put a price on carbon, as we're speaking. There is nothing out there that, I believe, gains of acceptance of folks to get to 60, to make an energy policy that is workable.
Let's focus on something that gets us toward that goal, which is reduction in our emissions. And we -- we've got a bill sitting right there. It's been out for a full year now, a bipartisan product out of the Energy Committee that puts us clearly on that path to reduced emissions, greater efficiencies, greater conservation, moving toward renewables.
It's got all the right pieces. The only thing it doesn't have is cap-and-trade. Well, that's how we got to a bipartisan bill. So let's build on something like that.
MURKOWSKI: Let's build on the art of the possible, instead of requiring, as the president seems to want to do, that we have to have a cap-and-trade piece or it isn't comprehensive.
CROWLEY: Senator Lisa Murkowski, thank you so much for joining us.
MURKOWSKI: Good to be with you. Good to be with you.
CROWLEY: Appreciate it.
CROWLEY: Next we will turn to Afghanistan, where security is deteriorating despite the increase in U.S. troops. According to a new U.N. report, attacks on security forces and Afghan officials are up dramatically in the first four months of this year. We'll discuss the U.S. mission there with Senators Dianne Feinstein and Richard Lugar.
CROWLEY: It is not a forgotten war, but as the Gulf coast leak morphed into a catastrophe, the war in Afghanistan faded into the background. In the 62 days since 11 people died on the Deepwater Horizon, 112 coalition troops died in Afghanistan; 72 were Americans. June is shaping up as the deadlines month of the year, with military officials warning it will get worse over the summer.
There are 94,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. There will be about 100,000 by fall, an increase spelled out last December.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: These additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: But this week on Capitol Hill, CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus parsed the date.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS (USA), COMBATANT COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: And I know that it's important that July 2011 be seen for what it is, the date when a process begins, based on conditions, not the date when the U.S. heads for the exits.
CROWLEY: Delays in southern Afghanistan have put coalition and Afghan forces behind schedule in the two most critical and dangerous places in the country.
In February, the U.S. launched a major military offensive to drive the Taliban out of Marjah. The operation was largely successful, but problems setting up a stable government has led to setbacks. General Stanley McChrystal recently described Marjah as "a bleeding ulcer yet to be secured."
And delays in Marjah mean delays in Kandahar, the heart of the Taliban. Military officials had hoped to start in Kandahar in late spring but now see fall as a more realistic start time.
When we return, in-depth on Afghanistan in an interview we recorded earlier with Dianne Feinstein and Richard Lugar, next.
CROWLEY: Joining me now, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California, and the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar of Indiana, the perfect two to talk a little bit about Afghanistan. What with the oil gusher and everything, it seems to me it's been shoved off the front pages, anyway.
Will you, just as a starting off, define the terms here, which is, when will we know we've succeeded in Afghanistan?
FEINSTEN: Well, right now, it's estimated that 40 percent of the territory is either contested or controlled by the Taliban. That's a difficult situation. The belief is that the real heart of the battle lies in the southern part of Afghanistan. I believe we've got to begin to follow the money and see where the Taliban, the Haqqani network, the Pakistani Taliban are getting their money. And I'm increasingly concerned that the Taliban is one part terrorist group and another part narco-cartel. And I think you've got to go -- we've got to stop the funding me mechanism of the Taliban.
And, secondly, we've got to really get our troops there to see that the surge is fully implemented as soon as possible.
CROWLEY: Senator Lugar, she paints a pretty grim picture about a war that's been going on for nine-plus years. If had you to say, on this day I will know that the U.S. has succeed and we can begin bringing troops home, what would that day look like?
LUGAR: Well, your question implies that we've defined success, and we've never got to that point. That's a part of our problem, that we're going to have, as a government, whether it be the president or the Congress, to define success in a way in which the American people find this to be satisfying. Otherwise we'll continue to argue about the date of withdrawal or how fast, or how -- whether we surge more or less, without ever having defined exactly what it is hope from Afghanistan.
CROWLEY: So, basically, we have 94,000 U.S. troops, with more coming, in Afghanistan on a mission that hasn't been clearly defined, with any number of problems, including the drug trade, neighboring Pakistan. And there's also some other things that I thought -- when I thought, well, what's -- what's standing in the way of success, whatever success is?
And part of it is, of course, we need to have an Afghan army. We need to have that stand up. And I wanted to read you something from Time magazine on that score.
"Nine out of 10 Afghan enlisted recruits can't read a rifle- instruction manual or drive a car, according to NATO trainers. The officer's corps is fractured by rivalries. Commanders routinely steal their enlisted men's salaries. Soldiers shake down civilians at road checkpoints and sell off their own American-supplied boots, blankets and guns at the bazaar, sometimes to the Taliban. Afghans, not surprisingly, run when they see the army coming. Recruits tend to go AWOL after their first leave, while one-quarter of those who stay in the service are blitzed on hashish or heroin, according to an internal survey carried out by the Afghan National Army."
I've got to tell you something. These are the people we need to stand up to take over control of the country.
FEINSTEIN: Well, Candy, that's true. Now, that's the bad side of it.
FEINSTEIN: There also is a good side of it. I mean, I am told that they are on track to meet their training numbers. That's the good side. Also, there is one, I think, irreversible truth. The Taliban is on a march. If you lose Afghanistan, Pakistan is the next step. And so what that bodes, is nothing but ill because Pakistan is a nuclear...
CROWLEY: Failure is not an option is what you are saying.
FEINSTEIN: Failure is not an option. So the question becomes, either the Taliban becomes a force for good, participates in government -- we're not there yet -- or it has to be defeated.
And I think there are consequential steps that have been made. We very carefully track the taking down of leadership. And I think that's moving along.
I think the problem is that General McChrystal has said that what we are going to do is securitize certain areas. We will take them over. We will hold them. We will show to the people that they are safe, so the people can be on our side with security, that the husband is not going to disappear or the wife is not going to be murdered, or the children, as a penalty by the Taliban.
In my view, the Taliban is pure evil. I mean, they govern by the most horrid...
CROWLEY: So when Hamid Karzai -- and I want to ask Senator Lugar this as well -- when Hamid Karzai says, you know, I would like to partner with the Taliban, you are thinking he wants to partner with pure evil, and yet he is supposed to be with us?
FEINSTEIN: Well, he hasn't been able to partner with the Taliban. And that's not to say that other Taliban leaders might emerge that might change the direction of the movement. I think that's the big hope. Some would say, oh, that's naive; it may well be.
CROWLEY: Senator Lugar, I want to read you something from General McChrystal, that he said recently. This came from Time magazine. He was the Afghan consul in Kabul. And he said this to the Afghans there, "My father has a son and two nephews fighting for your freedom here in Afghanistan. How many of you have sons fighting for Afghan freedom? How many of you are willing to make the sacrifices necessary for your country's future?" And again, we have the will -- we have got a military that does everything we ask of them, and yet the Afghans, at least many of them, don't seem to want to step up. When do we say, you know what, goodbye?
LUGAR: Well, we don't say goodbye. We say right now to the Afghans that we want to train you so that you are able to police your own territory in order to govern. As Dianne Feinstein has said, this is tough to do. You have almost everybody who is an illiterate to begin with. The allies that we had hoped for to send trainers haven't sent very many. Our own trainers are too few. So as a result, this is going more slowly.
I sympathize with General McChrystal and General Petraeus as people press them for dates. There's got to be one thing at a time. We really have got to get the training done. It's going more slowly. But nevertheless, when it does happen, there is confidence in the villages that in fact something of a better life may occur.
CROWLEY: We will be back with Senator Feinstein and Senator Lugar in just a second.
CROWLEY: We are back. Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California.
Senator Feinstein, 94,000 troops. Take aside the, you know, the government and trying to get the Afghan government there and what is wrong with the Afghan army and that kind of thing, look at this purely from a counter-terrorism point of view. Is the terrorist threat in Afghanistan worth 94,000 troops there?
FEINSTEIN: Well, that's an interesting question. It is to this extent, it is to this extent, it is metastasizing. The groups are merging together. Al Qaida, the Pakistani Taliban, the Haqqani network, the Afghanistan Taliban. Money is shared. I believe increasingly, money is coming from the drug trade to fuel this movement and the guns. And there is a safe harbor, still, right over the border in Waziristan, both north and south.
CROWLEY: But it has been going on for more than nine years...
FEINSTEIN: Yes, that's correct.
CROWLEY: And it feels like at some point, we ought to just cut our losses. There are people like that, as you know, Senator Lugar, in the U.S. Senate, in the House that go, enough, enough, we can't do this. All of the problems that Senator Feinstein has just outlined are just insurmountable for the U.S. military. Some of it is so outside their bailiwick, you know, what do you do? When is the end point to this?
LUGAR: I think that's the reason why the president and his plan said that we would begin to withdraw in July of next year, 2011. Now, this was to satisfy in part critics in the United States saying why are we there and how long are we going to be there? Likewise, to reassure the people in Afghanistan, that we were not there permanently, and some didn't like to see us around.
I think the president is going to have to redefine the plan, and when the proper time comes for that, he will have to make a decision.
CROWLEY: Senator Feinstein, just to sort of wrap this up, do you foresee U.S. troops in some fashion, be they combat or not, in Afghanistan for years to come? And do you think it's even possible, given what you have outlined here, that by July of next year the president can begin to withdraw combat troops?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I think it's possible. Whether it's likely, I can't comment.
I think the metric of success...
CROWLEY: You really don't think it's likely.
FEINSTEIN: Wait a minute. I think the metric of success to a great extent has to be a measure of security and stability within the country. So that a government can grow, can move out of a corrupt phase. A nation can be built by its own people. And you have to enable that environment. You clearly can't enable that environment when you have got people that destroy schools, bomb hospitals, bomb roads, do those kinds of things.
CROWLEY: Wrapping up Afghanistan here, Hamid Karzai, do you think he has the ability and do you trust him to do his part in this?
FEINSTEIN: I think he remains a cipher. I think it's very hard to tell. Up close and personal, when you meet him, he is rather charming. Reports are that he is not a strong presence, that he does not have a kind of command control, that his administration is fraught with corruption and problems. So the report card is not a good one so far. That's a problem for us.
CROWLEY: How does the U.S. work with a man they don't trust or they don't believe has the ability to do what we need him to do?
LUGAR: Well, I think we have to say, it seems to me, as United States leaders, that he is the leader of Afghanistan and we're not going to involve ourselves in editorial comment daily about it, because that's the way that it is. This is not a perfect world, and he's not a perfect man, but we aren't either. And I think the problem is that we really have to pragmatically put our mouths there for the moment, and say we have got a leader and let's work with him.
CROWLEY: Jonathan Alter wrote a book called "The Promise," in which he quotes Vice President Joe Biden about July of 2011, when these troops are supposed to start leaving. "In July of 2011, you're going to see a whole lot of people moving out. Bet on it." Do you bet on it?
FEINSTEIN: A nice thought. LUGAR: I think that Senator Biden -- or Joe Biden has many thoughts about this. Jonathan Alter may have caught him at a moment there, not really fair. Essentially, the vice president is going to follow the lead of the president, and that may mean we have a lot of troops still there after July 1.
CROWLEY: We have to take a quick break, but we'll be back in a moment.
CROWLEY: We'll return to Senators Feinstein and Lugar in a moment, to discuss a name you may not know, James Clapper, a retired Air Force lieutenant general. Earlier this month, President Obama nominated Clapper as the new director of national intelligence, or DNI. The job was created post-9/11, to help coordinate the sharing of information between the government's numerous intelligence agencies. If confirmed by the Senate, Clapper would head U.S. spy operations and oversee the national intelligence program, which includes 16 intelligence agencies and a budget of over $47 billion. It is a key national security post, and President Obama doesn't want the director's chair to sit empty for long.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I expect this nomination to be completed during this work period. This nomination can't fall victim to the usual Washington politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: But don't expect that confirmation to come easily. Some senators, including Feinstein, think the job needs more power to be effective. They want a bill that will strengthen the DNI's position and provide it with more flexibility.
But Clapper's staff wrote a memo in April that the bill would give authority to the DNI that conflicts with the intelligence responsibilities of the secretary of defense. And Clapper himself wrote in February, quote, "We will not see legislation that gives the DNI unambiguous authority in the near term nor do I believe much more authority is warranted."
This is what's known in Washington as a turf war. So is Clapper the right man for the job? We'll ask our two senators, next.
CROWLEY: Back again now with Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California.
Let me ask you about General James Clapper. Should be a familiar name to you. The president has nominated him to become the next head of DNI. You've had some real reservations, but as we know, you have met with him once. Do you still have reservations about him, about Clapper, and what are they? FEINSTEIN: Well, I had a very good conversation with him for about an hour. I will be having another conversation with him, a very serious conversation. Because we still have problems within our 16 intelligence agencies. And my concern has been Defense controls so much, 85 percent of it, that the overall head, I have always felt, should be a civilian. But that civilian has to know how to temper sharp elbows and how to really move the entire community. And that's the trick.
Now, General Clapper is respected for his intelligence acumen, no question about that. We will do -- we're doing our due diligence and we will proceed.
CROWLEY: And before I close with Senator Lugar, does that mean that a yes vote from you for the nomination of General Clapper is not a done deal?
FEINSTEIN: Oh, Candy, look, you cannot leave this community without leadership, I think. I think Leon Panetta as CIA director has stepped up in really quite an extraordinary way, and is respected today throughout the community.
CROWLEY: You want him to be head of DNI? FEINSTEIN: Well, I felt very strongly that he could do the job, would be eminently acceptable. Leon has some very unique abilities that because I've been sort of distant from him for so long, his being in California, my being here, I didn't really realize, but they have crystallized in the last year. And so I think he's a very critical and important leader. I'm delighted that he's there. And in a sense, he makes an appointment of a DNI a lot easier.
CROWLEY: Senator Lugar, it seems to me that there is some question as to what the head of DNI does. Is he another big spy? Or is he -- or is he one of the people that moves the trains, that says you guys talk to this person, that kind of tries to collect the bureaucracy. How do you see that job?
LUGAR: Well, that's precisely the question that I'll be asking and others, because I don't know General Clapper well. I think he has a very distinguished background. But at the same time, this offers a good opportunity to discuss just the subject you're talking about. What is the relationship? Where is our intelligence situation going? And these are questions that those of us who are in the rank and file, not on the committee, will be asking and hope to be getting some answers.
CROWLEY: So you have questions about Clapper for a final vote...
CROWLEY: You will be in on the final vote.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Richard Lugar, can't thank you enough for being here.
CROWLEY: Time for a check of today's top stories. Oil from the spill in the Gulf has reached its farthest eastward point. Tar balls have watched up on beaches in Destin, Fort Walton, and Panama City, Florida. Unfavorable winds could push a large plume of oil, currently about 30 miles offshore, from Panama City inland in the coming days.
Meanwhile, B.P. was forced to stop collecting oil for 10 hours Friday night because of malfunctioning flame arrester. The ship resumed oil collection Saturday morning.
A pair of car bombs killed at least 26 people and injured at least 53 others in Baghdad today. The bombs were the latest in a wave of violence that has swept across Baghdad, raising fears that insurgents are trying to take advantage of Iraq's tenuous political situation as politicians try to form a new government. The United States plans to withdraw all combat forces from Iraq by August 31st.
Fire crews near Flagstaff, Arizona are bracing for windier weather as they battle a 600-acre wildfire. Evacuation orders remain in place today for 170 homes. Several hundred other homes are on standby to be evacuated. The fire broke out yesterday near a popular hotel and caused traffic to back up on Interstate 40. No injuries have been reported, no buildings damaged.
Floods have killed 132 people during China's rainy season. The Chinese government says 86 other people are missing and more than 860,000 have fled their homes since the storms began on June 13th. More than 10 million people have been affected by the floods. The rains have collapsed reservoirs, overflowed rivers, caused landslides and power outages and damaged highways.
And voters in Poland are casting ballots today for a new president. The winner will replace the late president Lech Kaczynski, who was killed in a plane crash in April. The election pits Kaczynski's twin brother against Poland's parliament speaker, who has been acting president since the crash. Recent polls show Jaroslav Kaczynski trailing his opponent.
Those are your top stories here on "State of the Union." Up next, honoring those who built a symbol of democracy while still enslaved.
CROWLEY: There was a moment on Capitol Hill this week, a moment of history and bipartisanship we didn't want you to miss. It was a ceremony to commemorate what never should have been. Republican and Democratic lawmakers unveiled plaques honoring the slaves whose labor was an important part of the workforce that built the United States Capitol.
Civil rights giant Congressman John Lewis led the task force, which studied the role of slaves in building the seat of our democracy. Historians say the federal government rented slaves from their owners for $5 a month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN LEWIS, D-GA.: Constructing this nation's Capitol building with your own two hands.
Imagine, in Washington's oppressive summer heat and humidity, to chisel and pull massive stones out of a snake and mosquito-infested quarry. Just imagine the United States government, our government, paying your owner -- not you but your owner -- $5 a month for your labor -- for your labor.
Today, through these plaques, we now tell the full history of our nation and this Capitol building. Today, through these points, we now remind all visitors of the work of enslaved African-Americans in building the temple of freedom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Also speaking, Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who said of the ceremony, "In remembering the slaves who labored here, we give them in death some measure of the dignity they were so cruelly denied in life."
Thank you so much for watching "State of the Union." I'm Candy Crowley in Washington.
Next Sunday, we launch our new series, "The Political State of the Union," with our exclusive guests, the leaders of their parties' campaign committees, Senators Robert Menendez and John Cornyn.
Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there.