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State of the Union

Interview With Congressmen King, Nadler; Interview With Rep. Van Hollen, Rep. McCarthy

Aired August 15, 2010 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: For weeks, the White House has said that building a mosque and Islamic center on private property near ground zero in New York is a local matter. Not anymore.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I understand the emotions that this issue engenders, and ground zero is indeed hollowed ground. But let me be clear, as a citizen and as president, I believe that Muslims have the right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country, and that includes -- that includes the right to build a place of worship in a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan.


CROWLEY: The president ventured into this red-hot emotional issue late Friday at the White House celebration of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. He is flying in the face of overwhelming public opposition to the project. A recent CNN poll found only 29 percent of Americans support the plan to build the mosque; 68 percent are opposed. Democrats, independents, Republicans, all opposed. There is very little middle ground when a country's pain slams up against one of its bedrock values.


CROWLEY: Today, ground zero, respecting the victims while preserving religious tolerance with New York Congressmen Republican Peter King and Democratic Jerrold Nadler.

Then, intra-party complications in an uncertain election year with key players in the battle for Congress, Democrat Chris Van Hollen and Republican Kevin McCarthy.

And the weather. What in the world is going on, with NASA's Tom Wagner.

I am Candy Crowley, and this is "State of the Union."


CROWLEY: What happened at ground zero left indelible marks on the American psyche. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the rest of the world hears you, and the people...


BUSH: And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon! (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)


CROWLEY: Now, almost nine years after the attack on the World Trade Center, a proposal to build a mosque and Islamic center on private land two blocks from the site triggered opposition across the political spectrum, and anguish from the families of the victims.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't want anything that has to do with terror, fear, fright. We want peace. We want to be able to go down there and remember those who died.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I beg you not to let them construct it so close to where our loved ones are. Thank you.


CROWLEY: What seemed to be a bold statement from the president became a bit more complicated yesterday when he talked to CNN's Ed Henry in Florida.


ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: What do you think about the reaction to your speech about the mosque? What about the reaction to your speech?

OBAMA: Well, you know, my intention was to simply let people know what I thought, which was that in this country we treat everybody equally in accordance with the law regardless of race, regardless of religion. I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there.


CROWLEY: The controversy surrounding the mosque proposal resonates deeply with the men who join us now, Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler and Republican Congressman Peter King, both of New York. Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate it.

Congressman King, first to you. I want to be really clear here to our audience, and that is there does not seem to be anything legally that can be done. This is on private property. There are no laws being broken. It seems like all of the local -- the jurisdictions have spoken and given the green light to this. So, why protest it now? Because there really is nothing to stop it, and you would like to, yes?

KING: First of all, I do agree. The Muslims have, as everyone else says, the right to practice their religion and they have the right to construct a mosque at ground zero if they wish.

What I am saying, though, is that they should listen to public opinion, they should listen to the deep wounds and anguish that this is causing to so many good people. And if the imam and the Muslim leadership in that community is so intent on building bridges, then they should voluntarily move the mosque away from ground zero and move it whether it's uptown or somewhere else, but move it away from that area, the same as the pope directed the Carmelite nuns to move a convent away from Auschwitz. This is such a raw wound and they are just pouring salt into it. And that's my point.

I think the president, by the way, is trying to have it both ways, because I don't know of anyone who was saying that Muslims do not have the right to practice their religion, but with rights go responsibilities, and that's the part of it the president did not comment on.

CROWLEY: Congressman Nadler, I do want to talk to you about what you think the president is saying, but doesn't Congressman King have a point, and that is, this isn't about laws and freedom of religion? This is about sensitivities. A number of the 9/11 families that I listened to, said what about our sensitivities? We understand that there is sensitivity to the religion and to allowing freedom of religion, but what about the sensitivities of those who were primarily the injured ones on this?

NADLER: Well, first of all, it started off very much about law. I mean, Newt Gingrich said, for instance, a few days ago that no mosque should be built in the United States until churches and synagogues were permitted in Saudi Arabia. Now, we all desire that Saudi Arabia should have religious liberty, but American religious liberty should not be at Saudis -- at their level. We are better than Saudi Arabia, hopefully, and we are.

It is now finally being recognized that government, which is what I said initially, that government has no right and no business to comment one way or the other on whether a church or a synagogue or a mosque should be anywhere, so long as they meet the legal requirements. And frankly, if government tried in any way -- if the Landmarks Commission had ruled -- had landmarked that building for any -- for reasons of opposing the mosque, not for real landmark reasons, the courts would have offset it. There is no way for government to block this.


CROWLEY: Sure. But if I could just kind of -- I'm sorry. If I could just--

NADLER: Let me go to your second question--

CROWLEY: I think you are right. Yes, right. What about the sensitivities of this?

NADLER: Well, I certainly appreciate the sensitivities of some of the families of 9/11. There are others who have expressed support for it. The press has concentrated on those who have opposed it. But frankly, ground zero is hallowed ground. Two blocks away, first of all, is not so hallowed ground. Second of all, we should not -- government officials should not be in a position of pressuring people where to build their mosque or their church or whatever.

Third of all, as much as I respect the sensitivities of people, there is a fundamental mistake behind it, and that is how can you -- and I can quote any number of some of the people who have commented on it, and what they are saying essentially is how can you put a mosque there when, after all, Muslims attacked us on 9/11, and this is ripping open a wound? Well, the fallacy is that Al Qaida attacked us. Islam did not attack us. Islam, like Christianity, like Judaism, like other religions, has many different people, some of whom regard other adherents of the religion as heretics of one sort or another. It is only insensitive if you regard Islam as the culprit, as opposed to Al Qaida as the culprit. We were not attacked by all Muslims. And there were Muslims who were killed there, there were Muslims who were killed there. There were Muslims who ran in as first responders to help. And we cannot take any position like that.

CROWLEY: OK, let me put that to Congressman King. You know, the truth is, there was a great column today in one of your local papers up there that said if this is not built, if this mosque is blocked, then the terrorists do win. Do you worry, because there is a huge difference, which I imagine most people who are opposed to this understand, that we were not attacked by Islam, we were attacked by those who would twist Islam, perhaps, but not by the religion itself, and aren't we really going against a basic principle on which this country was founded?

KING: You know, I have a great respect for Jerry Nadler, but I really disagree with that opinion. And the reason I say this is, that they were -- the attack was carried out in the name of Islam. And I visited many mosques before September 11th, and I was one of the first to defend the Muslim community after September 11th.

But I was extremely disappointed since then by so many leaders in the Muslim community who do not denounce Al Qaida, who -- for instance, even this imam himself who wants to construct the mosque at ground zero, he says that the United States was an accessory to 9/11. He refuses to denounce Hamas as a terrorist organization. So the record is not that clear on this.

But there is no doubt that to have a 13-story, $100-million edifice within two blocks of ground zero -- in fact, parts of the jets which crashed into the World Trade Center actually crashed into this building as well, that's how close it is to it -- is -- it does open the wounds. It does put salt in the wounds.

And, again, it's -- the fact that so many people who were involved with it, I would disagree with Jerry, I think the overwhelming majority of the 9/11 families are opposed to it, and these are good people, they are not bigoted and they are not biassed. But I am getting calls from people like Jimmy Boyle (ph) and Ernie Strata (ph), Rosemary Caine (ph), Frank Hast (ph), and I can down the list. These people, the wounds of this are being torn apart for them now, and they are heartbroken over this.

And that is what I think the imam and the Muslim leadership should take into account. And I do think, as government officials, we have the right to speak out. I agree with Jerry. I don't believe there is a role for the government as far as taking any administrative or executive or legislative action, I agree with that completely. But I do believe that is, as the president calls a teachable moment, and this is a teachable moment.

CROWLEY: Well, Congressman, how far away is far away enough? Three blocks? Four blocks? I mean, how do you -- you know, the sensitivities to 9/11 are not confined to a three-block area. They feel it in California. So, you know, how do you make that, you know, geographical decision?

KING: Well, if the president is going to get involved, one way I would suggest is to have the leaders, the developers, the builders and the Muslim community meet with people who feel aggrieved, who do feel anguish, and arrive at a common site. Governor Paterson suggested that he would make state land available in New York for the construction of the mosque, and that's what I would have -- one way to build a bridge is to sit down and get a consensus as to where it would be acceptable. Because we do need mosques. I support mosques, obviously. We need churches, temples, mosques. Whatever people use to speak with their god or to receive spiritual inspiration is good for the country. But the symbolism of it at ground zero, within two blocks or three blocks, I believe is wrong. But let the Islamic leaders meet with those who feel aggrieved, and they can arrive at a common site.

CROWLEY: Congressman Nadler, do you think there is common ground? I mean, it seems to me that there are people who are righteously aggrieved at what everyone in this country agrees was a horrible thing that took place on 9/11, and then there are the principles on which the country was founded. Is there space inside there to find something that would make most people happy?

NADLER: Well, that's really up to the imam and the people around him. They have to decide what they want to do.

CROWLEY: Would you like them to?

NADLER: I am not going to comment on that, because I don't think it's proper for any government official to pressure them in any way. And if I were to say that I think it's a good idea for them to do it, since I am a government official, that would be government pressuring them.

But it's up to them. If they want to do that, they're certainly free to do it.

But I want to point out several things. One, there is a mosque in the Pentagon, which is also hallowed ground. No one objects to that. Second, the people who want to build this facility, which is partially a mosque and partially a community center, have a mosque a few blocks away from there, which no one has objected to.

And thirdly, objecting to this mosque would be as objectionable if you wouldn't object to a church or a synagogue in the same place because that's blaming all Islam and you can't blame an entire religion.

And finally, I would take the sincerity of many of the Republican critics of this, Peter King very much accepted, much more -- I would understand the sincerity much more if they were supporting, as Peter is, but very few other Republicans are, the bill to give health care coverage to the 9/11 heroes and responders which all but 12 Republicans voted against in the House last week.

CROWLEY: Before we get--

NADLER: That shows sensitivity to the survivors.

CROWLEY: OK, before we get up on the rails then, I understand that it has been a huge thing in New York and continues to be on Capitol Hill. But before we get off on that, when we look at the polling on this, whether you are a Republican, a Democrat or an independent, the majority is opposed to doing this. So it cannot just be that Republicans are playing politics with this.

NADLER: Well, I did not say they were playing politics. I said I would respect their sincerity more.

But we do not put the Bill of Rights, we do not put the religious freedom to a vote. The reason we have a Bill of Rights is that you have your religious rights, your right to freedom of speech for the press et cetera, whether majorities like you or not, frankly.

I hope that people will understand that government has no role in this. Peter has now said this. Many of the people who have been saying this -- who have been on the other side have not been willing to say that. Peter has, I appreciate that.

As to whether the imam wants to have the mosque somewhere else, that's up to them, and government should not pressure them one way or the other.

CROWLEY: And Congressman King, and finally to you in the last minute I have here, and that is what do you make of the president's comments? It seemed at the White House on Friday night he was saying I am supporting this mosque being built here, and then questioned by our Ed Henry, he seemed to say, look, I am just saying we have a principle here and it's of religious freedom. I am not saying one way or another whether I support it. What does that -- does that seem like a change to you?

KING: Yes, it does. The president is a gifted speaker. He is a tremendous communicator. Obviously his words were carefully chosen on Friday night, and the inference or the current (ph) impression everyone came away with was that he was saying he was supporting the mosque at ground zero, and that he can parse it later on and sort of back away, but the fact is, that is clearly the impression I believe he wanted to leave.

All I can think is perhaps there was political pressure from people in his own party who urged him to walk back away from that on Saturday. Let me just say, if Jerry Nadler had given a speech on this issue, nobody would have doubted where he stood and he would not be taking it back the next day. If the president was going to get into this, he should have been much more clear, much more precise, and you can't be changing your position from day to day on an issue which does go to our Constitution, and it also goes to extreme sensitivity. So that's where I am critical of the president, for not being clear.

CROWLEY: Congressman Peter King, Congressman Jerry Nadler, thank you both coming into New York to talk about what has been a really sensitive issue. Appreciate it.

CROWLEY: When we come back, we will turn to politics and the high stakes in this year's mid-term elections with two leading members of Congress.


CROWLEY: For more on the mosque controversy in Lower Manhattan and what it may mean come November, we welcome two men who help direct their party's election year strategy, Democrat Chris Van Hollen and Republican Kevin McCarthy. Gentlemen, both in California today, so thanks for the early wake-up.

I want to first start out with a poll that CNN took recently about the opinion, public opinion about the plan to build a mosque near ground zero. This was separated down into parties. So, Democrats, 54 percent oppose the project. Independents, 70 percent oppose it. Republicans, 82 percent.

So first to you, Congressman Van Hollen, would you rather the president not brought this up?

VAN HOLLEN: Candy, first of all, I think that when it comes to 9/11 and the memory of 9/11, we should all agree that it would be wrong to politicize this issue. And I think what the president said yesterday was as the president of the United States of America, he was simply stating the principle that under our great Constitution, we do not discriminate against people based on their religion. He went on to say later, as you said, with this reporter that the decision as to where to site the mosque, this Muslim place of worship, was up to the people of New York, and Mayor Bloomberg and inter-faith leaders, Christians, Jews, Muslims have said they think it's appropriate; others have said it's not. That's a question for the people of New York, but I think the president--

CROWLEY: Can I just interrupt here, because this -- I think this is--

(CROSSTALK) VAN HOLLEN: -- the people of the United States of America, was simply stating the principle.

CROWLEY: Right, but I think that's confusing to people, that you come out and you say I stand for the principle of freedom of religion, and that includes being able to build a mosque where you want it, even, you know, in downtown Manhattan. Applause, applause. And then the next day, you say, well, I did not -- I was not saying I supported it, that's up to the people. This is the kind of thing I think that people look and think, what are they saying? And you seem to be saying the same thing. So let me ask you directly, because I know you don't want to speak for the president. What do you think about the idea of putting a mosque two blocks away from ground zero?

VAN HOLLEN: And, Candy, I agree with the president. I think the issue is one for the people of New York City. And that's why the mayor of New York City, Mayor Bloomberg, put together an inter-faith group -- again, Christians, Jews, Muslims -- and on the 9/11 families, some have been in favor of it, some have been against it.

VAN HOLLEN: You know, I think it's up to the people of New York. I mean, they are obviously the folks who are right there at the site of the attack of 9/11. And it's a question for them.

I think, in the Congress, frankly, where we did have a decision -- and Jerry Nadler mentioned this; you didn't pursue it -- where a decision was before us, the United States, not the people of New York, we saw our Republican colleagues, most of them, voting against a piece of legislation that would provide health care support to the heroes of 9/11, the people who rushed into the burning buildings, as a result have various diseases, and we said we should extent the health care fund to provide for their health care.

Now, that's a decision to be made by members of Congress. We had a vote. With respect to siting the mosque, that's a decision to be made by the people of New York.

CROWLEY: Well, one of the reasons I didn't pursue is just it's a little off-point here for us, in what we're trying to do, which is, sort of, concentrate on this. Because you also heard, Congressman McCarthy, Congressman Nadler say, listen, we don't look at public opinion polls or public votes when it comes to the principles of the Constitution, one of them being religious freedom. How do you parse what the president had to say?

MCCARTHY: I think the president -- if Chris is saying this is a New York issue, then why did the president engage in it?

But if you listen what he first said, he brought up the exact location and said he supported it.

Look, you look at the poll. There is a sensitivity to that area. Yes, we have the freedom. Build a mosque; build more than one mosque, but don't build it there. There are other places to build them. And I think that's really what America is saying. CROWLEY: Can I ask you, given those polls I just cited of overwhelmingly, in each party, people are opposed to this, is this something you can take to the polls in November?

MCCARTHY: Well, I think it's an overriding issue. The number one issue is going to be, in this election -- look, the Democrats have been in power, for the House and the Senate, for four years. Are people better off than they were four years ago?

This is going to be about jobs. This is the first Congress for the last -- since the Depression, for the entire two years, where unemployment has been above 9 percent. It's an overwhelming issues. It's going to be about jobs. But this is just another example, is why isn't the president spending the time debating about jobs instead of moving into New York?

And why is he so insensitive about this area, as well, to engage in a local issue that's causing a problem throughout the nation, when the nation feels the sensitivity and a deep sensitivity to this exact location?

CROWLEY: And, Congressman Van Hollen, I think we've now gotten into territory you'd like to talk about...


... which is the economy. We did not have a great week, when it comes to looking at the figures, the jobless figure, consumer confidence. A number of things came out. How worried -- as someone who is basically in charge of, kind of, steering Democrats toward not losing the majority, and I'm sure your ultimate goal would be to gain seats, but nonetheless, when you look at the economy, has this just gotten to be such a tough sell that you are now increasingly worried about your -- not your job specifically, but your job of helping elect Democrats?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, Candy, it's interesting to listen to my colleague, Kevin McCarthy -- a little bit of revisionist history there. And he and his colleagues are counting on the fact that the American people are somehow going to have a bout of collective amnesia come these elections, because we all know that, George Bush's last day in office, we saw this country losing 700,000 jobs a month. And it takes time to turn things around.

Are we where we want to be? Of course not. Are we much better off than where we were under the Bush economic policies that, over an eight-year period, resulted in over 670,000 lost private-sector jobs after that eight-year period?

MCCARTHY: Chris...

VAN HOLLEN: Yes, we are...


MCCARTHY: ... you've been in power for four years. When you took the deficit, it was only $161 billion. Today it's $1.4 trillion.

CROWLEY: Can I -- if I could just...


VAN HOLLEN: The day the president put his hand on the Bible, there was facing record deficits. Can I -- can I just say what I was going to...

CROWLEY: Sure. MCCARTHY: The president is not up for re- election.


VAN HOLLEN: Kevin, let -- you can say your piece.

Elections are about the future. And our point here is not to talk about all the things that created the problems, but to point out that Kevin and his Republican colleagues, when you ask them what their plan for the future is, it is no different than the Bush economic policies. In fact, it's the Bush economic plan on steroids. And people do not want to go back to that.

You heard John , the Republican leader, the other day, said he wanted to repeal the Wall Street reform, let those guys be back in charge. We saw what happened there.

They have a plan to privatize Medicare. In fact, Kevin voted for that last year as part of the Ryan budget proposal, their point person on the budget.

So let's talk about issues in this campaign, and the choices that voters are going to have as to what the best way forward is.

CROWLEY: Congressman McCarthy, I'm just going to hold you up for a second because we're going to take a quick break, but coming out of the break, we will hear from you and your response on the economy. Thanks.

We will be up next with President Obama and Sarah Palin both taking hits from members of their own party. We'll have a little discussion about that.


CROWLEY: He's a Democratic president with falling approval ratings. She's a conservative phenom prone to making not always helpful headlines. What they've got in common is that President Obama and Sarah Palin are being openly slammed by their own people.

At a union rally in Kentucky, unemployment rate 10 percent, Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth, an Obama loyalist, said this, "I'm not real happy with our economic team in the White House. They think it's more important that Goldman Sachs make money than that you make money." Sarah Palin took her star power into Georgia to help candidate Karen Handel in a Republican primary for governor. Handel lost narrowly, and shortly thereafter, on America's Morning Radio, Jack Kingston, Republican congressman from Georgia, took off on the former governor of Alaska: "Why Sarah Palin decided to get in the race is beyond me. What she is doing is dividing the Republican Party at a time when we don't need to be divided. What it does is it makes Republicans say, well, maybe we do need to rethink Sarah Palin as somebody who does shoot from the hip a little bit too much."

CROWLEY: The Obama and Palin effect with our congressional guests, when we continue.


CROWLEY: Back now with Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Kevin McCarthy.

Congressman McCarthy, when last we met, I promised you some time here on the economy. Listen, just to sum it up, the Democrats' bumper sticker, which won't fit onto a bumper, is basically, yes, but if we go back, they are promising the same things that got us into the mess. It seems to me the Republican response is, they spent all of this money and the jobless rate is 9.5. Does that sum up this election?

MCCARTHY: It's going to be about jobs. But if you look, the Democrats have held the gavel for four years. When they took office, the deficit was $161 billion. After one first year, it was a 452, the next was $1.4 trillion, and onward. This is the first Congress...

CROWLEY: But to be fair they also walked into two wars...

MCCARTHY: This majority has not even produced a budget, the first time since 1974. This is going to be about jobs. This is the first Congress since the Great Depression where unemployment has been above 9 percent.

But Republicans have not sat back. We produced our own stimulus that actually focused on the private sector, focused on small business creation, that's where 70 percent of all jobs are created. And that is a direction of where we would go. Their plan was the stimulus plan. More people believe that Elvis Presley is alive than the stimulus created jobs. And that's because what have they spent the money on? They have not created jobs as we move forward and that is what the debate is going to be about.

CROWLEY: Well, Congressman, if I could just button up the economic part of this. It does seem to me that we are now arguing over who started this, and it does seem to me that Democrats have taken out after you all because there is not an idea out there that you have not seen either executed or proposed in the Bush years.

What is that idea that is out there that would make a major difference in what is going on right now?

MCCARTHY: Well, fundamentally, we should look at how we spend our money. We should spend the money in government just as we do in households. You look at what the stimulus has been doing... CROWLEY: But didn't they do that in the Bush administration? I think that's the problem here. And, you know, there were disastrous Sunday appearances of...

MCCARTHY: Candy...

CROWLEY: OK. But I was just going to...

MCCARTHY: Look, the first thing I would do, I would end uncertainty. I would end the uncertainty for business to invest. I would invest in small business where I'd give a 20 percent deduction for the incomes for small businesses less than 500 employees to actually start going.

I would roll back the stimulus. That's $260 billion. I would go in and make sure access to credit for small business to invest. Then I would finally go back to look at the spending, to be able to curve back that we don't spend more than we're able to bring in.

The other thing I would fundamentally do, I would reform Congress, where bills would actually have to be read before they were voted on. I would make sure that committees were actually debating bills and they were moving forward onto the floor. You've got to find the private sector be able to grow. That's where small business is. That is where the function should be moved forward.

CROWLEY: Let me move us on...

VAN HOLLEN: Candy, I have got to...

CROWLEY: OK. You're going to -- I have got some other great questions here, but go ahead.

VAN HOLLEN: First of all, I know, but, look, Kevin talked about extending access to credit to small businesses. We had a vote on that bill in the House. He and his colleagues voted against it. We got it out of the House, it's setting in the Senate. He talks about fiscal discipline. We had a vote to restore the statutory pay-go law that was in place during the Clinton administration that kept the deficits down, in fact, led to long-term surpluses.

They voted against that. And now they're talking about blowing another...

MCCARTHY: Hey, Chris, this is the first Congress since 1974...

VAN HOLLEN: No, now, Kevin...

MCCARTHY: ... where you haven't even produced a budget.

VAN HOLLEN: Kevin, you had your chance. Now they've got to propose...

CROWLEY: Hang on, Congressman McCarthy, let me -- let him just wrap this one up. VAN HOLLEN: Kevin, there is. There is a budget enforcement act that is below the president's proposed freeze on non-security discretionary spending. And you have proposed blowing a $700 billion hole in the deficit over the next 10 years because while we want to make sure that we extent tax relief to middle class taxpayers, 98 percent of the American people, you are holding that hostage until you get a break for the folks at the very top, even though it was proven during the eight years of the Bush administration, which ended with net job loss, that that was not a big creator.

We need fiscal discipline. We need to send a message that we are serious in order to get our economy. And you guys say, oh, let's blow another $700 billion...


CROWLEY: Let me call a time-out here, simply to move us along here, if I could. You know, here's -- I mean, I think we get where the two of you all are coming in terms of the economy. And I think we get where the economy is right now. And that's a battle we'll really see who wins in November.

I wanted to move you on to some of the specifics of the campaign that is before us. And President Obama gave his Saturday morning radio address, which now is online as well, in which he talked about Republicans and what they wanted to do about Social Security, which has just celebrated its 75th anniversary.

Take a listen to this.


OBAMA: They are pushing to make privatizing Social Security a key part of their legislative agenda if they win a majority in Congress this fall.


CROWLEY: So, Congressman Van Hollen, I have not heard Republicans say that privatizing Social Security is a key part of their agenda if they take over. This seems to me to be one of those things that gets out there, whichever side it comes from, which is sort of an exaggeration of where people are. Do you think it's true that your colleagues in the House are aiming to get rid of Social Security and put it all in the private sector?

VAN HOLLEN: Yes, I do. And we know that the Republican John Boehner was very vocal in support of the Bush plan to privatize Social Security, which, as you know, would have resulted in millions of senior citizens in this country losing a whole lot of their retirement savings during this economic meltdown.

And the fact of the matter is, they would like to send more of the Social Security money to Wall Street. That has been a position the Republicans have held for a long time. And their -- their leader, the guy who wants to become speaker... CROWLEY: But the implication is the Republicans want to get rid of Social Security. Is that not the implication, and do you think that's true?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, yes, effectively. Because if you take -- if you partially -- if you privatize Social Security, if you privatize it, the end result will be that that money is not there. There is not a stable source of retirement money because we will be literally gambling it on Wall Street.

And that has been a long-held position of our Republican colleagues. And they all voted last year, Candy, on a budget that would also privatize Medicare. It would cut it by 75 percent. It would turn it into a voucher program. And a senior would be given a voucher and say, hey, you go out with this -- you know, this voucher that has been cut by 75 percent, and go get your insurance. They voted on that. That's part of their...


CROWLEY: Let me -- yes, let me let Congressman McCarthy in there. I have something to play for you too. But go ahead and respond to that.

MCCARTHY: But this is a scare tactic to try to get off jobs. Social Security isn't a fundamental problem. We should be able to sit down with both parties and start talking to make sure we secure it. Republicans want to secure it and actually make it there for the future.

One of the reasons why it's actually losing money right now is because there are so fewer jobs out there, fewer people paying in. We need to get the job creation going. And this is the exact tactic of the Democrats.

Why they have not produced a budget the first time since '74. Why their job plan has failed to not move America forward. They are trying to have a scare tactic to move forward where Republicans have not produced this plan.

And if Chris wants to talk about Medicare, there is only one party going into this election that has cut Medicare by $500 billion, and that was the Democratic Party.


CROWLEY: I have to cut you off both here. I'm sorry, I've totally run out of time.

VAN HOLLEN: He should read the trustees report.

CROWLEY: You need to read the trustees report, according to Congressman Van Hollen. Let me know what you think of it. Thank you all both very, very much. I thought it was Congressmen Nadler and Congressman King I could not control, all the time it was you. But thank you so much. And by my count, it's a little past 6:30 in California. Everybody back to bed. Thank you very much.

From record heat to deadly floods, trying to make sense of the extreme weather, when we come back.


CROWLEY: Insufferable heat, unprecedented and deadly rains, tornadoes and earthquakes in places that haven't seen them in decades: extreme summer, the global edition.

Earlier this month, a block of ice four times the size of Manhattan broke away from Greenland, the largest iceberg to form off the country in nearly 50 years.

Up to 20 million Pakistanis are homeless in the worst monsoon flooding in Pakistan in 80 years. Deluges have killed an estimated 1,200 people in China in the worst year of flooding there in decades.

Record heat has triggered wildfires covering Moscow in smog. Much of this country has also felt a summer of blistering record- breaking heat. And last month a twister packing 100-mile-per-hour winds ripped through the Bronx, New York, the first tornado there in more than 35 years.

The weather has been chaotic, deadly and costly. In the U.S., the power infrastructure is being pushed to the limits. During the past two decades, non-disaster blackouts have increased 124 percent. Going back to 1940, some years, the earth was warming, some years, it was cooling, until the late 70s. Then it was all in the same direction, up.

NOAA says 2010 is on track to be the hottest on record. If this is the new normal, what does that mean and how do we prepare?

We'll ask NASA scientist, Tom Wagner, next.


CROWLEY: Here to help make sense of what's happening outside your window is Tom Wagner. He directs NASA's efforts to understand earth's frozen surfaces.

It's so easy to talk to you because I'll ask you what everyone's says to me to do in this segment: What is going on with the weather?

Is this just an odd season or are we turning the corner on something?

WAGNER: It's a really good question. And the short answer is this. The things that we're seeing all over the world, from things like heat waves to increased monsoons -- that's exactly what was predicted to happen as the planet warms up, but it's also at the cutting edge of the research, in terms of assigning specific mechanisms to any one of these things.

Now, thinking about it, kind of, long-term, though, the satellite record and other records tell us that 2010 is already on track to be the warmest year of all time, OK? So it does really look like it's warming up. But in terms of saying this heat wave in Russia was specifically caused by global warming, that takes the benefit of hindsight.

CROWLEY: So this is only -- we'll only know what's happening 10 years from now?

WAGNER: Right, but that doesn't mean the planet isn't warming up on average. And that's what people have to realize. There's multiple lines of evidence that tell us this. And the impacts from this range from everything from the heat waves and the monsoons through to things like sea level rise from melting of the ice at the poles.

CROWLEY: So, you -- I know, in particular, reading some of the things that you've done, and talking to you prior to this, you are especially looking at coastal living, and thinking that, looking into the future, if the weather pattern or the overall look stays the same, what has to change on earth to cope with the warming of the earth?

WAGNER: OK, well, this is what we're trying to figure out right now. Think about it, like, NASA's got 14 satellites over the earth, measuring everything from temperature to wind speed to precipitation to the changes in the polar ice.

And what we're trying to do is put that -- and also other federal agencies are trying to pull all that information together to try to understand how the planet's going to change, particularly, how is North American weather going to change?

Some people say what's going to happen is the West will get drier; the East will get wetter. Also, how are we going to cope with sea level rise?

And one thing that people may want to go and check out are places like, where there are some reports on what will happen.

The short answer is this. As the sea levels rise, there is going to be great changes to the shape of the coastlines. You'll see increased erosion in some areas. You will also see tremendous impact to wetlands, which are important, as everything from bird habitats to places that catch polluted waters running off the land.

Now, the reason that we're so worried about this is that satellite studies and on-the-ground studies tell us that the ice around Greenland and Antarctica is melting and flowing into the oceans at ever increasing rates.

CROWLEY: So the sea level is increasing?

WAGNER: Right now...


CROWLEY: Go ahead. WAGNER: Right now, sea level is rising at about three millimeters a year. If you just extrapolate that out, we're talking at least a foot in the next 100 years.

CROWLEY: So if it's a foot in the next 100 years, I don't mean to belittle this, but a foot in the next 100 years on the coast of California, basically people could stay in their houses?

WAGNER: Yes. But what you would get is dramatic changes to the beaches and the coastal areas. You also need to think about the storm surge being higher.

So take, like, New York, a lot of the transportation infrastructure is only about 8 feet above sea level. So while a foot rise doesn't sound like a lot, it could be when you consider how much a storm surge would put out.

But the other thing is this. A foot is a minimum -- like, it's not even a real estimate. The real estimates we go are higher than that, more like two feet to a meter. And part of the problem is that we don't understand how the ice flows into the ocean from Greenland and Antarctica. We just saw this -- this 100-square mile chunk of glacier break off from the northern tip of Greenland, OK?

It used to be, just a few years ago, we only thought that we were losing ice from southern Greenland, the warmer part. Now we're losing it from the north. We're seeing, in Antarctica -- we used to think we were just losing ice from areas that are, kind of, the most northern parts.

CROWLEY: In my lifetime, or in your lifetime -- it's probably going to be a little longer...


... do you think that we have to make changes, that we will see things -- the electrical grid -- maybe it will be overpowered if the temperature keeps getting hotter -- or are we talking a couple generations out when the actual effects on daily living come?

WAGNER: Yes, if you look at that site, there's some real -- there's some hard information on this. We're going to have to make changes to adapt to a warmer planet and also rising sea levels within our lifetimes.


WAGNER: Like of at least a few feet. But what we also...

CROWLEY: But I mean, what sort of changes, like what kind of changes?

WAGNER: Right -- you know, probably a third to almost half of Americans live in coastal areas right now. And also, recently, a lot of the economic -- a lot of the development of new properties was in coastal areas. As I understand it, the way that those communities were built were not -- they consider some local erosion, but not erosion accompanying sea level rise. And that's something that we need to think about.

CROWLEY: And they what -- put more -- how do you do that other than move back?

WAGNER: Well, it's really complicated. Because it turns out it's -- sea level doesn't just rise in the same place, the same all over the place. Some areas are going to see higher amounts of sea level rise. Some will see lower.

You need to consider all different kinds of things, everything from how close is your infrastructure to rising seal level; how close are your houses; how are you going to continue to change?

But there's one other, kind of, big point in all of this, right?

Rising CO2 is causing the planet to warm up. Doing everything we can, right now, we're still going to see some level of warming for the coming century or two, but we're also setting the stage for the planet to really be in a different state in the coming few hundred years.

You know, the amounts of CO2 that we're talking about getting the planet to in 100 years, that takes us back to a time when there were forests in Antarctica. That's how different the world could be.

Now, I'm not saying all the ice in Antarctica is going to melt in the next hundred years, but we are going to see a few feet of sea level rise, at least.

CROWLEY: Tom Wagner with NASA, thank you so much for trying to explain this weather to us. Bear it for now and look on your dot-com site to find out what's going to happen in the future.


CROWLEY: We appreciate it. Thank you.

And at the top of the hour, Fareed Zakaria will have a full discussion on global warming and its implications.

But up next, a check of the top stories.

And then, a fun fight at 30,000 feet. Cabin attendants and passengers aren't always grumpy.


CROWLEY: Now time for a check of today's top stories. At least six people are dead and nine others injured after a truck plowed into a crowd of people in an off-road race in California. The incident occurred in the Lucerne Valley area of San Bernardino County. No word on the truck driver's condition or whether any arrests are pending. South Korea's president has proposed a plan to reunite his country with North Korea. In a speech marking the 65th anniversary of Korea's independence from Japanese colonial rule, president Lee Myung- bak said the two countries should form a peace community and stressed the importance of a de-nuclearized North Korea.

Senator John McCain says he intends to tell President Hamid Karzai that the U.S. Congress is growing increasingly wary about corruption in Afghanistan. Kerry says as of now many members of Congress don't view the Afghan government as credible or Karzai as a genuine reformer. Kerry will visit Kabul later this week.

With oil no longer gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration is reportedly considering an early end to its moratorium on deepwater drilling. William Reilly, the co-chair of the presidential commission investigating the oil spill, tells the Associated Press he doesn't see why rigs that have passed inspections can't resume drilling while a broader safety review is under way.

And question answered. Would he or wouldn't he? The big question hanging over President Obama's weekend trip to Panama City, Florida. Would he take a dip to show Gulf Coast beaches are beautiful and safe?

Those are your top stories here on STATE OF THE UNION. Up next, clearing the air at 30,000 feet.


CROWLEY: It tells you a little something about the flying experience these days when a JetBlue flight attendant is seen as a cult hero for, we are told, cursing at a passenger with an outsized overhead bag, praising the passengers who have been nice over his 20- year career, and then picking up a couple of beers and deploying an exit chute for his getaway.

It's really hard to know what to make of that or of this video.


CROWLEY (voice-over): It was posted online by a passenger on a late June Lufthansa flight, Frankfurt-bound from Tel Aviv. We are told by a Lufthansa spokeswoman that this is the airline's first ever pillow fight in flight. She said a group of French passengers began to playfully through the pillows back and forth when one pillow accidentally hit the German flight attendant. So she joined in, to laughter.

Lufthansa said of the flight attendant: "She handled it quite well and we commend her." The attendant quickly exited to applause.


CROWLEY: We are not sure what the takeaway is here. Maybe it's that passengers are not as short-tempered when you give them pillows. Or maybe it's this from a posted comment. "If this happened on a U.S. flight, the plane would have returned to terminal and everyone on board would have been dragged off to jail. Fun is not tolerated on U.S. flights."

Or maybe the takeaway is exactly what Lufthansa says it is, that they give out pillows in economy class. Thanks 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.