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State of the Union

Interview With Senators Chambliss, Reed; Interview With Senators Menendez, Cornyn

Aired June 27, 2010 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: A new commander will soon head to Afghanistan as critics of this nine-year war say it's time for a new strategy, too. But that's a no-go at the White House. President Obama last December.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We will pursue a military strategy that will break the Taliban's momentum and increase Afghanistan's capacity over the next 18 months.

CROWLEY (voice-over): President Obama this week.

OBAMA: So make no mistake, we have a clear goal. we are going to break the Taliban's momentum. We are going to build Afghan capacity.


CROWLEY: More than two thirds of the additional troops the president ordered into Afghanistan in December are there now, but the Taliban's momentum is not broken and the price is high. In December, 13 Americans were killed in Afghanistan. So far this month, 46 are dead. A toll that may be moving this country.

In December, 52 percent of Americans said the war was worth the fight. This month, only 44 percent say the war is worth it.


OBAMA: We say to the American people, this is a change in personnel, but this is not a change in policy.


CROWLEY: The question is, why not? And many of those asking are Democrats.


CROWLEY (voice-over): Today as Congress moves quickly to confirm General David Petraeus as the president's new man in Afghanistan...

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, CENTCOM COMMANDER, FUTURE ISAF COMMANDER: Defining winning as making progress, then I think we are winning. CROWLEY: We are assessing the state of war with two members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jack Reed, and Saxby Chambliss. Then, the political STATE OF THE UNION, with the two men heading up the battle for control of the Senate, Democrat Robert Menendez, and Republican John Cornyn. I am Candy Crowley, and this is STATE OF THE UNION.


CROWLEY: Congressional critics of the president's policy in Afghanistan include some supporters and implacable opponents. Many are very senior and well-versed in foreign policy. The doubts are strong and bipartisan.


REP. JAMES MCGOVERN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I don't think the administration knows how this war comes to an end. And I don't think there is a clearly defined mission. I don't think anyone can define what winning is.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This is a chance to start over. I would urge the president to look at this as a chance to put new people on the ground without old baggage. And if we don't change quickly, we are going to lose a war we cannot afford to lose.


CROWLEY: Joining me now, two members of the committee that will be holding confirmation hearings for General Petraeus this week, Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island.

Thank you, gentlemen, both. I want to start with some of the questions posed in the opening. Senator Chambliss, first to you, one of the things that caught me in the now very famous Rolling Stone article was a quote it included from Major General Bill Mayville. He is the deputy chief of staff of operations. And he had this to say about Afghanistan: "it's not going to look like a win, smell like a win, or taste like a win. This is going to end in an argument," talking about the U.S. effort in Afghanistan.

When does the U.S. look at this and say, there is no -- this seems to me to be the prelude to, there is no way to win this in any satisfactory way, when is it time to say, we have done what we can, we're leaving?

CHAMBLISS: Well, Candy, this is not a conventional war. There are different geographical areas that we are fighting the war in. And there are political issues that are far and away the most difficult that we've encountered probably in any conflict we have ever been in.

And if we win militarily -- and I think the opportunity is there to do that, I think General McChrystal was moving us in that direction and Petraeus will. But then on the other side, and what I think is probably a more significant and more difficult issue is that you have the most corrupt government that we have ever dealt with from a conflict standpoint.

And until you provide some stability and some confidence in the Afghan people about the way forward from a governing standpoint, then I think that statement probably has some truth to it, that we could win militarily, and still have a very ugly victory.

CROWLEY: And still lose.

And, Senator Reed, isn't that the problem, is that we -- the military doesn't seem to be the problem. We can send them in, they can do their job. The fact of the matter is that the Karzai government in Afghanistan does not seem to be living up to its half of the bargain.

And I was struck this morning by an article which talked about Hamid Karzai discussing with the Taliban and with Pakistan about power-sharing in Afghanistan against the very people who, in Afghanistan, were U.S. allies to begin with.

This is so convoluted at this point, it does not seem that there is a way out.

REED: Well, the most challenging aspect of this whole strategy is the civilian diplomatic aspects. As you point out, the military aspects are pretty clear-cut. We're going in and we're already making success in terms of disrupting the Taliban very effectively. There will be more actions in the south. But the real key is the diplomatic and political capacity of the Afghanis.

CROWLEY: And is that something the military ought to be doing? I mean...

REED: It's something that we all have to do. There is a role, but there is a significant role for our American advisers, for Ambassador Eikenberry, for others there. There is also a role for AID. There is a role to build capacity in the Afghani government, not just military capacity, but governmental capacity, delivering services...

CROWLEY: But they're not -- they're not doing that. Let me turn to Senator Chambliss. I mean, certainly in Marjah, which I want to talk about later, the Afghan government's ability to get services to people has been fairly weak, if not nonexistent.

And what do you think about our diplomatic effort? One of the things that Republicans are beginning to say now is, it's also time for a change in the civilian leadership here. They talk about Ambassador Eikenberry. They talk about Ambassador Holbrooke, saying that the civilian half of this equation has not done well and it's time to clear house.

CHAMBLISS: Well, I think that ought to be looked at. Right now, General Petraeus comes in with his team of military leaders. They have got to work hand-in-hand with the civilian side. So I think it's an opportunity for the president to take a look at it. Ambassador Holbrooke has a very strong record that can be looked back on, but the fact is, I don't think he even talks to Karzai now. Should somebody who is in a strong leadership position have an ongoing dialogue with the president of the country? I would say yes. And apparently that's not the case right now.

CROWLEY: Senator Reed, what do you...

CHAMBLISS: So I do think...

CROWLEY: Go ahead.

CHAMBLISS: I do think there is the opportunity for the president to look at both the military side and the civilian side because they have to work hand-in-hand if we are ever going to come to some stable government in Afghanistan.

CROWLEY: And, Ambassador Eikenberry is on record as not thinking Karzai is up to it. So it's a little hard for them to have a relationship. Is it time for him to go? Is it time for anyone to go? Do you have faith in this team?

REED: Well, first of all, General Petraeus will get on the ground. And he has been very effective in pulling together in Iraq not only the American effort but also the effort of the host country. And I think he will be equally successful in Afghanistan.

I think everyone recognizes, both the civilian side and military side, that there has to be a unified effort, there has to be a concentration on assisting the Afghanis. But ultimately this is going to be the Afghanis' effort.

People ask the question, well, how do we know when we win? Well, we'll know the same way we know in Iraq. That the burden of the battle is being borne by the local forces, not by American and NATO forces. That we will be able to withdraw our forces, not immediately, but we will be able to withdraw them.

We will be able to focus on regional counter-terrorism, not country-specific counterinsurgency. That's when we know we will win, just like we had known we were winning in Iraq.

CROWLEY: To the specific question, is U.S. Ambassador Eikenberry -- in Afghanistan, in Kabul, is he the best person for this job given a nonexistent relationship with the president of the country that we need to step forward?

REED: Well, I have been with Ambassador Eikenberry in the presence of President Karzai, and they have a relationship. They have -- communicate. Sometimes the ambassador has to tell things to President Karzai that he doesn't want to listen to, that he doesn't want to do. A lot of this criticism that Karzai doesn't do this, that Karzai won't take action, there has to be someone there that tells him -- that suggests to him, he is a sovereign, but to suggests to him that his best course of action for his country are certain steps.

So we have to have, I think, someone there willing to be firm, not offensive, but firm to the government of Afghanistan.

CROWLEY: So you think he's the right man in place?

REED: I think they have got a team now in place that can get the job done. I think that they all retain the confidence of the president and now they have to work together.

CROWLEY: OK. When we return, inching toward success in Marjah.


CROWLEY: When General David Petraeus takes over command in Afghanistan, his first, most urgent problem may be what the ousted commander, General Stanley McChrystal, famously called "a bleeding ulcer," the Taliban stronghold of Marjah in Helmand province.

Marjah was supposed to be the showpiece of the clear, hold and build strategy. The idea was to use the military to clear out the Taliban and then win the hearts of the community with better government services and a workable local power structure. Four months into the Marjah operation, Time magazine offers the assessment of a company commander on the Taliban presence in Marjah: "It depends on what your metric is for 'clear.' They're obviously not gone, and they're not going to be gone."

According to a report in The Washington Post, there have been more U.S. military deaths in Marjah this month than in the first month of the operation. Taliban intimidation of civilians is rampant.

But Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently testified that the gloom-and-doom reports are premature, that the Marjah effort just needs more time.


SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ROBERT M. GATES: The reality is that the military operations in Marjah were successful, and -- and a place that had been controlled by the Taliban is no longer -- for two years or more -- is no longer controlled by the Taliban. Getting the -- getting the civilian coalition and Afghan forces in there, the civilian officials building the development programs is moving forward, but it is moving slower than we originally anticipated.


CROWLEY: We'll address that with Senators Reed and Chambliss when we return.


CROWLEY: We are back with Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island.

Senator Chambliss, to you, Leon Panetta at the CIA is now assessing the strength of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and has said that, in some ways, the Taliban is weaker and in some ways, it's stronger. This doesn't seem to me to be a recipe for success.

CHAMBLISS: Well, you have to remember, though, that, with the different regions of Afghanistan, some areas are stronger from a tribal standpoint than others, and where we have those strong tribal regions, then the Taliban has the ability to come in, in the middle of the night, and intimidate and threaten people, and in a lot of instances kill people to demand their loyalty.

In those areas, the people have been hesitant to get on board with the American effort, the NATO effort. But there are other regions where we have gained ground. Marjah is one where, militarily, I would have to agree with what Secretary Gates said. He's right on, that we've done well military, but then, when you look at the civilian side, there are issues. There are very difficult issues.

So I would say that Leon's statement is probably pretty well correct, that in the areas where we have really concentrated militarily, we've done well. But you have to give up something when you do that, and certain other areas, the Taliban probably has gained in strength because they've moved troops there.

CROWLEY: Well, then, it sounds to me, Senator Reid, a little bit like whack-a-mole; we're over here; we can push them back militarily, but they pop up some place else.

And again, there's not that kind of civilian reinforcement that moves -- that has yet to move into Marjah and be successful, at any rate. And now we're talking about, well, in -- you know, next year at this time, we'll be preparing to remove some U.S. troops. And a lot of people don't think that's realistic.

REED: Well, first, the Taliban was able to reconstitute itself principally in the south, in Helmand province and Kandahar. And they developed intricate networks of governance, and essentially they were the power. We are, along with the Afghani forces, trying to take back those two provinces. It's a tough fight. We understood that. And it's a very difficult fight.

CROWLEY: Well, we didn't know it would be this tough to do the whole operation.

REED: Oh, I think -- I think the assumption was, and very clearly, General McChrystal, at that time, and Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates were saying this was going to be a very difficult summer; we're going into the -- the home ground, if you will, of the Taliban. They've had years to reconstitute themselves. They are supported from safe havens in Pakistan. They have been running these areas for years now, and the idea we're going to walk in and they're going to run away, I think, was never contemplated. This is a tough fight, unfortunately.

And then we have to bring in the key component. You're absolutely right, is it's the Afghanis' fight. They have to prevail. They have to be in force down there. Afghani recruitment and retention for the army and police are beginning to show real progress. But it takes a while to take those troops, train them, get them in the fight and have them effective.

CROWLEY: Well, and there -- the Afghan troops are, A, not as willing to put their lives on the line as the U.S. troops are, that they have -- there's a high incidence of drug use. I mean, we may be getting more of them, but they haven't been an effective fighting force.

REED: They have not yet been an effective fighting force. Again, we are -- we have tried several times over the last almost eight years to train an Afghani national army. It's been fits and starts. It's failed. It's been resurrected. Now we're once again focusing, with some of our very best people, General Caldwell, who's leading the effort for NATO (inaudible) the United States is trying to develop an Afghani fighting force that is going to be capable.

We saw some of the same problems in Iraq, where we had fits and starts there. But they started with a much higher level. They had a professional military force that was reasonably well trained. We're not starting with that kind of benchmark in Afghanistan.

CROWLEY: Senator Chambliss, one of the other things that Director Panetta said was that, right now, he figures there are 50 to 100 Al Qaida operatives in Afghanistan. The whole reason we went into Afghanistan was that that's where Al Qaida was. They were being, obviously, protected by the Taliban. But Al Qaida was there. We wanted to break the back of Al Qaida in Afghanistan because of what happened on 9/11.

Now they're down to 50 to 100 people and we're in there with 94,000 troops. You see how people might look at that and go, why are we still there? What do we owe Afghanistan at this point?

CHAMBLISS: Well, what Jack just described is exactly the case, from the standpoint of having a safe haven in Pakistan. Leon Panetta is exactly right. The number of Al Qaida is fairly minimal right now. But they go back and forth across the border. And they are providing tactical information to the Taliban. They are working hand in hand with them. And we see a lot of Al Qaida presence, but we don't necessarily see individuals. And by that I mean from a training standpoint, from an operations standpoint, from a weapons standpoint, you are seeing a lot of influence, but you don't necessarily see a lot of Al Qaida individuals there. However if we left today, Candy, Afghanistan would be the same training ground for Al Qaida that we saw in 2000, and leading up to 2001.

CHAMBLISS: So that's why it's important that we continue the fight and that we continue until we prevail with respect to the elimination of Afghanistan as a training ground for those who want to kill and harm Americans.

CROWLEY: Let me in the final minutes we have, and I think these are three very sort of short yes or no questions to both of you, and first to Senator Reed. Do you have faith that Hamid Karzai is up to getting his country together enough for us to be able to begin to leave? REED: He is the elected president, the Democratic elected president. He has to succeed and we have to help him. That burden is at this point I think unknown. But we can't change courses. We've got to make sure that he does the job he is elected to do.

CROWLEY: So we hope so. Number two, do you think U.S. troops will begin to withdraw by next year at this time?

REED: I do. The withdrawal being subject to the commanders on the ground. It will not represent a significant, I think, complete pullout of American forces, but it will be as we are doing in Iraq, beginning to lower our presence and letting them take the fight.

CROWLEY: And finally, is it important anymore that we track down Osama bin Laden, who according to Director Panetta, we haven't seen since the early 2000s?

REED: I think it's important to keep on the pressure on Al Qaida wherever they are.

CROWLEY: Senator Chambliss, the same to you, do you believe Hamid Karzai is up to the job we need him to do?

CHAMBLISS: I think he is very weak, but he is the best we've got and he has been elected by the Afghan people, and we have an obligation to recognize that and respect that and support him.

CROWLEY: So another maybe. And number two, do you think U.S. forces will begin to withdraw this time next year?

CHAMBLISS: I think it's a huge mistake to even put that deadline out there, because the enemy is watching and you can rest assured that they will be looking to see if we in fact intend to begin pulling out come July 1 of 2011. And if that remains a hard and firm date, then you better believe they will sit back and allow us to start pulling out and then hit us with their full force.

CROWLEY: And finally, how important is it to find Osama bin Laden?

CHAMBLISS: Certainly from a symbolic standpoint, it's important that we find him and take him out, but, gosh, we have about eliminated his ability to provide any kind of assistance to Al Qaida. We have taken out once again his number three in rank of Al Qaida, and he was the operations guy. Whoever comes in next, certainly you might want to buy a life insurance policy on him. But getting bin Laden, getting Zawahiri are important, but what we really need to make sure we do is take out those folks who are providing the operation leadership on the ground, and we are doing that.

CROWLEY: Senator Saxby Chambliss, thank you so much. Senator Jack Reed, thank you as well. I appreciate it.

When we come back, the first verse of our political "State of the Union."


CROWLEY: This week we open our political "State of the Union" series looking at November's pivotal races that could alter the political landscape. We begin with the battle for control of the Senate. Democrats are now firmly in control with a nine-seat advantage. But do the math. There is a chance Republicans could significantly change that bottom line. There are 36 Senate seats up for grabs this fall, evenly split between the two parties.

But according to the respected Cook Report, 11 of the Democratic seats are vulnerable to a Republican takeover, versus five vulnerable Republican slots. To win back the Senate, Republicans would have to hold onto all their own seats and pick up 10 Democratic seats. Not impossible but improbable.

Still, without dispute, Republicans have the wind at their back. A year ago, registered voters preferred a Democratic-controlled Congress 48 to 39 percent. But now, a new "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll finds that Republicans have erased advantage. Still, the GOP should hold off on an early victory lap. A CNN poll released this week shows the majority of Americans are angry at both parties. And when it comes to what is likely the issue of the 2010 campaign, Americans still blame Republicans for current economic problems.

When we return, the political "State of the Union" with the two senators in charge of helping win seats for their collages, Texas Republican John Cornyn and New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez.


CROWLEY: Joining me now in an exclusive interview, Senator John Cornyn of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, doppelgangers what we've got here. I want to start out just with the overall mood of the country. I know pollsters, and certainly we at CNN have always looked at the right track, wrong track poll, as a pretty good indicator of how an election is going to go. And here's the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" right track/wrong track. Right direction, 29 percent, wrong track, 62 percent. That's not the best atmospheric for Democrats.

MENENDEZ: Well, look, Candy, you know, we inherited an economy that was driven into the ditch by Republicans, two wars unpaid for, a tax cut to a trillion --

CROWLEY: Can I just ask you one thing? Because Democrats do say this, and I understand it, but you have voted and most Democrats have voted to continue paying for the war and funding for the war.

CROWLEY: As far as I know, I have not found a lot of Democrats saying, yes, let's repeal those tax cuts in the middle of, you know, what still is a shaky economy.

MENENDEZ: Well, there is fundamental -- first of all, I think, you know, you have to understand where we came from to understand where we're going. And part of it is that my Republican colleagues like to start the present in January of 2009. They forget the history that brought us to January in 2009, and the consequences that we are in.

And those are consequences of tax cuts unpaid for, two wars unpaid for, a new entitlement program unpaid for, huge debt, and an economy that was flat-lined that this president is trying to revive along with Democrats. And so that...

CROWLEY: Would Democrats like to repeal that prescription drug plan?

MENENDEZ: That is -- the difference is that -- just like the health care bill, we will pay for everything that we are doing, fundamentally different than our Republican colleagues, who vote against pay-as-go, who even walked away from the deficit commission, the bipartisan deficit commission that seven of them were co-authors of and then voted against.

CROWLEY: Senator Cornyn, have you become the big spending party? Did you start this spending spree? And you saw the polls, I mean, the polls show that Americans still do overwhelmingly blame Republicans for the current state of affairs?

CORNYN: Well, I am waiting for this administration to take responsibility for the job it volunteered for, and our Democratic colleagues who are in the majority and who run the show in Congress.

The fact of the matter was that in 2008, the last year President Bush was in office, the deficit was 3.2 percent of the gross domestic product. Now it's about 10 percent. So it has more than tripled with $2.3 trillion of additional debt.

People are tired. You ask about the right track/wrong track, people are tied of reckless spending and unsustainable debt. They're worried that this president never seems to want to pivot, as he claimed he does, to job creation, and instead we get just more spending and more debt, and job-killing policies. CROWLEY: And yet when you look at it, Senator Menendez, I think what people totally understand -- I mean, they understand debt, I mean, they get it, basically. You know, you are not supposed to spend more than you actually have.

But I think, to me, one of the biggest figures there over everybody's head is an unemployment rate that is at 10 percent. And I want to show you first a picture of President Obama, who this week went to Columbus, Ohio, to stand at the 10,000th road project that was paid for by the stimulus plan. So a year after this stimulus plan is passed, the president is still out selling it, which says to me that it has not been an easy sell out there. The people don't believe that the stimulus -- there has been a lot of bang for the buck that was spent.

MENENDEZ: Well, look, Candy, first of all, there are millions of Americans still unemployed, and we understand that. And that's why we are trying to work every day to move an economic agenda forward. Our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, they keep using the filibusters to stop that progress.

They haven't seen anything they want to try to improve working with us on the economy. So a stimulus package that we had a heart monitor -- think about visiting somebody in the emergency room, if that heart monitor has flat-lined, you have an emergency. We are trying to revive that economy, and that's why we see job growth versus job losses. That's why we see the growth in the gross domestic product versus negative when we took over in January of 2009.

And that's why we are concentrated like a laser beam on moving this economy forward and creating jobs. But we can't create the 10 million jobs overnight that were lost on the policies of the past.

CROWLEY: I'm glad you brought that up, because I want to -- I just want to read you something that Senator (sic) Joe Biden said at a fund-raiser in Milwaukee, this was Friday. And this is a quote: "There is no possibility to restore 8 million jobs lost in the great recession. There is no way regenerate the $3 trillion that was lost, not misplaced, but lost."

That seems to me to be a peculiar message for an administration and Democrats that have been out there saying, we have to restore all of these jobs, and there is no way to restore those same kind of jobs.

MENENDEZ: Well, I think what the vice president meant is, we are not going to do it in a short time-frame. We are going to work to restore each and every job and create opportunity and hope for every American. But anyone who believes that after eight years of policies that drove us into the economic ditch, that you can just get out overnight and create 10 million jobs miraculously.

That's why Americans in that poll say they understand who caused the economic situation. And I think they give us credit for moving in the right direction.

CROWLEY: Senator Cornyn, hold on for me. And you are up next after this break.

Up next, a look at some of the key races that could determine which party controls the Senate.


CROWLEY: We're back with Senator John Cornyn of Texas, and Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey. Some equal time here. I think the Democratic overall message, as I understand it, is, things are a whole lot better than they might have been had we not taken over, and it's still -- we're cleaning up the Republican mess.

So it seems to me that the Republicans' message is, no, they have made it worse. Have I summarized the election?

CORNYN: Well, first it's no accountability, no responsibility for a year-and-a-half of governing, and where things have gotten worse, not better. But, Candy, my basic message is that...

CROWLEY: But there is growth, yes?

CORNYN: My basic message is that if you like the way things are happening in Washington these days, then vote for Senator Menendez's slate of candidates. If you want change, if you want to cut down on all of the reckless spending and this endless debt, if you want us to really focus on job creation and incentives for the private sector to create jobs, then I think our candidates bear a close looking at.

CROWLEY: But you would concede that there has been economic growth in recent quarters?

CORNYN: Well, gross domestic product, yes.


CORNYN: But that's because people have contracted, they have cut inventories, they've cut their expenses to the bare minimum. They haven't been hiring people because of the political turmoil, wondering what is going to happen to them next. More spending, more debt, more burdens like cap and trade -- cap and tax we call it in Texas because of the job-killing impact of those policies.

Things like the health care bill which we're just now learning that all of the promises the president made about the health care bill, that most of them have proven to be untrue in terms of lowering the cost curve -- reducing the cost curve. Indeed, what we have seen is the increased taxes, the increased premiums that are caused by the government mandates, and the cuts in Medicare are having a very negative impact on access to health care in this country.

CROWLEY: Let me move along to three people, we put together a little montage here. I think you will recognize all of them. Here they are.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SHARRON ANGLE (R-NV), SENATE CANDIDATE: The tea party express has played an integral role in this victory tonight. They were the first ones to jump in and say, we can do this. We can take back our country. Our country deserves better.

RAND PAUL (R-KY), SENATE CANDIDATE: I have a message, a message from the tea party, a message that is loud and clear and does not mince words, we have come to take our government back.

MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), SENATE CANDIDATE: I want to take this chance to thank the tea party express for your endorsement. I'm honored by your support and your help.


CROWLEY: Now let me just say, from Nevada to Kentucky to Florida, you, the Republican establishment didn't back any of those candidates, and yet they won. What is the message to Senator Cornyn and his group about what the Republican Party wants out there?

CORNYN: Well, we are proud to support all three of these individuals who will bear the Republican standard going into the election.

CROWLEY: But it wasn't who you wanted and so it says something to you. It seems to me there's a message there.

CORNYN: Well Candy, the basic bottom line is we want the candidates who can win in November. And the ones who can win are the ones that win the primary. We respect the choice of the voters in each of those primaries, but I think what you will see our Democratic friends doing is trying to marginalize the very people who have gotten off their couch and gone to town hall meetings in August and become part of the Tea Party movement and tried to characterize them as out of the mainstream or marginalize them. These are Americans who have not been involved in the political process before, or maybe not very much, who have finally gotten tired of the direction that the country is going in and they want to take the country back. And I say more power to them.

CROWLEY: And in that, they are tired of some of the Republican Party choices.

CORNYN: Well, I think we're going to see a big influence obviously of the Independents. Independents are going two to one for Republican candidates in Massachusetts, in New Jersey, and in Virginia, and I think we're going to see that trend continue in November. So it's -- I think what they want are checks and balances on single party power and on the reckless spending and endless debt.

CROWLEY: And we should say that in North Carolina, South Carolina, as well as Pennsylvania, the Democratic Party establishment did not get the candidates that they backed. Is there something in that that says to you all, that within the Democratic Party there is a similar movement, if not as sort of a headline kind of movement, of Democrats saying we don't being told, we don't want you all backing, we'll decide?

MENENDEZ: Well Candy in several of those states we were not engaged, so except for Pennsylvania --

CROWLEY: Well, Elaine Marshall, you didn't back her, you backed Cunningham. Alvin Greene was not your choice in South Carolina.

MENENDEZ: Cunningham was basically -- well, we didn't have a choice in South Carolina. Maybe the state party had a choice, but we didn't have a choice in South Carolina.

But look, I understand why John will says what he says, but basically, he didn't want those candidates. It's not that they are part of the Tea Party. I respect that people want to get involved in their government, it's that they're out of the mainstream for the issues in their state. Sharron Angle wants to bring radioactive waste to the Yucca Mountain and she wants to phase our Social Security.

CROWLEY: We're talking about the Nevada race here, which is Harry Reid's seat.

MENENDEZ: But look at other races as well. You know, Rand Paul --

CROWLEY: Let me just stop you at Nevada, because I want to talk about --

MENENDEZ: They are out of the mainstream in that respect.

CROWLEY: OK and that's the kind of thing that you say that you expect, but if you look at the Nevada race right now, Senator Reid, who is obviously the Democratic leader, the majority leader in the U.S. Senate is still behind in some of the local polls to someone you think is so out of the mainstream, and yet Sharron Angle, the Tea Party candidate, is still ahead in the polls. Why is that?

MENENDEZ: When Nevadans fully understand what Sharron Angle stands for, radioactive waste in the Yucca Mountain, going ahead and privatizing Social Security, and a whole host of -- having stood against named the worse legislator by the Nevada newspapers for two years, the bottom line is put that against Harry Reid who fought against radioactive waste in the Yucca Mountain, who helped save jobs and create jobs in center city in Las Vegas, and that's going to be a clear choice.

And that's what all of the elections are going to be about, not the national norm, choices between a Republican who wants to take us back to the failed economic policies, and a Democrat who is working hard to bring us forward creating jobs and opportunities.

CROWLEY: Quick break. Tomorrow, we're going to have confirmation hearings beginning for President Obama's second Supreme Court nominee. We will get the senators' thoughts on Elena Kagan when we come back.


CROWLEY: We are back with Senators John Cornyn and Robert Menendez. Senator Cornyn, let me begin with you. We have the Supreme Court hearings for Elena Kagan, which open tomorrow. You have now voiced some real uncertainty about her. But does she meet at this point the sort of misgiving level there now is that would warrant any kind of filibuster?

CORNYN: Well the burden of proof is on the nominee. The president had a constitutional role to nominate officials, but the Senate has the constitutional role as you know of advice and consent. The burden is on the nominee, and the problem is that Ms. Kagan has a very sparse record. She hasn't been a judge, which isn't a disqualifier, but that means we don't have a judicial record like we had with Judge Sotomayor. And her main record is that of a political strategist and adviser in the Clinton White House. What we do know --

CROWLEY: Sandra Day O'Connor was in politics before she got in the Supreme Court, and people don't think politics entered into her decisions.

CORNYN: Well, that's the question, can you take off the mantle of political strategist, political adviser and assume the role of a disinterested, impartial judge, calling balls and strikes. And I think the jury is still out on Mrs. Kagan.

CROWLEY: So you don't think at this point, you don't see any signs of a Republican filibuster?

CORNYN: I would say it's simply premature. We know she has expressed hostility to second amendment rights, saying she wasn't sympathetic to the arguments of gun owners when she clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall.

We know that on a number of areas of the hot-button issues of the day, she has been very much involved in, refusing to allow military recruiters to come to Harvard, not understanding the fact that they received federal dollars and it violated the congressionally passed Solomon Amendment.

CROWLEY: Could the president have nominated anybody that you would have liked? Knowing his, you know, the sorts of people that he was looking at --

CORNYN: Well, this says something about the president as well as the nominee, and clearly this president is trying to get somebody through who has a very sparse record and who he believes will be a reliable vote on the left wing of the United States Supreme Court. Yes, to answer your question, he could have nominated somebody in the mainstream who I would have -- I'm sure would have been willing to confirm.

CROWLEY: We're down to about 15 seconds. I am going to assume that you're going to vote for Elena Kagan when her nomination gets to the floor.

MENENDEZ: I think John and some of his colleagues in the Republican caucus had ten angels coming from above swearing that this person was the most qualified to be for the Supreme Court, was a centrist and would follow the rule of law and obey precedent, they would say too extreme. So Elena Kagan is someone who law school, dean at Harvard, solicitor general, first woman to do so, endorsed by the last 25 solicitor generals, Republican and Democrats alike. She is going to be an excellent Supreme Court judge and I look forward to voting for her.

CORNYN: I'm waiting for the angels.

MENENDEZ: They're coming, John.

CROWLEY: They probably won't be coming into this studio however, but I want to thank you both very much, Senator John Cornyn, thank you so much Senator Menendez, I really appreciate it. Up next, a check of today's top stories and then President Obama may carry a BlackBerry, but that doesn't mean he's a know-it-all when it comes to social networking.


CROWLEY: Time for a check of today's top stories. On day 69 of the Gulf oil spill, a new concern, Tropical Storm Alex. The first storm of the Atlantic hurricane season is currently moving along Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and so far is not a threat to the spill area. Nonessential oil workers on the rigs in the southern part of the Gulf are being evacuated, but if Alex changes course, the storm could bring oil recovery and cleanup efforts to a standstill.

China's president has accepted an invitation from President Obama to visit the United States. The invitation was extended during a private meeting between the two leaders at the G-20 summit in Toronto. U.S. officials have been urging China to relax control over its currency to help boost the global economy. China says it will allow its currency to appreciate and is also working to increase imports from the United States.

Police in Toronto are preparing for more disruptions and violence today at the G-20 summit. Groups of protesters burned cars, threw bricks and smashed windows outside of the meeting yesterday. In some instances, police used pepper spray, tear gas and beanbag pellets. Over 300 demonstrators have been arrested so far.

Iranian officials are dismissing the latest U.S. sanctions against their country. One member of the Iranian parliament says the measures will backfire against the United States. This past week, both the House and Senate approved new sanctions aimed at getting Iran to suspend its nuclear program. The U.N. Security Council is also imposing tough new measures against the Islamic republic.

And soccer fans around the world are gearing up for one of the marquee matches of the World Cup, England versus Germany. The two rivals will start playing in Johannesburg in just a few minutes. But for the United States, the World Cup journey is over. After comebacks in all of its previous matches, the U.S. soccer team lost to Ghana 2-1 in overtime yesterday. Ghana is the only remaining African country of the eight teams still contending for the World Cup.

Those are your top stories here on "State of the Union." Up next, President Obama's social networking gaffe.


CROWLEY: Nobody ever used the Internet the way candidate Obama and company did. The e-mails, text messages and other forms of social networking formed a campaign community and a fearsome fund-raising machine. Now the president and Lady Gaga are in a neck-and-neck competition to become the first living person to have 10 million Facebook fans. And remember, this is a guy who refused to give up his BlackBerry when he took office.

And 4.3 million people follow his tweets, like this one, "Speaking to the press after meeting with General McChrystal. Watch live at 1:30 p.m. Eastern.

So this week, when the president, at an old-fashioned news conference, ran through the Russian president's U.S. itinerary, a technological faux pas did not go unnoticed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!": Medvedev's first stop was at Silicon Valley, the hub of technology here in the United States, and then he flew to Washington to visit our tech-savvy president.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And during his visit to Silicon Valley this week, he visited the headquarter of Twitters, where he opened his own account.


KIMMEL: Twitters? What is that, like a combination of Twitter and Twizzlers?


Sounds to me like somebody's been talking to President Bush.


FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I hear there's rumors on the Internets.


CROWLEY: You may have guessed by now. President Obama does not tweet from his own Twitter account. You can follow us at Ours is written by a very talented Cody Combs. Thank you for watching "State of the Union." I'm Candy Crowley in Washington.