Return to Transcripts main page

State of the Union

Interview With Senators Cornyn, Menendez; Interview with Husain Haqqani

Aired October 03, 2010 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: There are two ways to get your supporters to the polls. There's the conventional method.


CROWLEY (voice-over): Hold a big rally with thousands of screaming fans, as the president did in Madison, Wisconsin.

(on camera) Or you can assault your base, like the vice president did, accusing the faithful of whining.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And so those who don't get -- didn't get everything they wanted, it's time to just buck up here.

CROWLEY: And this is the president during an interview with "Rolling Stone": "The idea that we've got a lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic base, that people are sitting on their hands complaining, is just irresponsible."

Republicans are dealing with their own inner turmoil, as some Tea Party-backed Republicans falter and Senate seats once seen as near certainties may be slipping beyond the party's grasp. This election season, the word "unsettled" comes to mind.

(voice-over) Today, 30 days to the midterms, with the heads of the two senatorial election committees: Republican Senator John Cornyn...

CORNYN: The American people have gotten very tired of being lectured to, as opposed to being listened to.

CROWLEY: ... and Democratic Senator Robert Menendez.

MENENDEZ: Democrats are going to have a lot more votes in the United States Senate that people think.

CROWLEY: Then, deciphering al Qaeda's latest terror plot with Pakistan's ambassador, Husain Haqqani.

HAQQANI: Pakistan and the United States remain allies, and we are allies with some disagreement.

CROWLEY: And making sense of the political jumble on the home front with Donna Brazile and Ed Gillespie.

I'm Candy Crowley, and this is STATE OF THE UNION.

(on camera) A month ago, Republicans thought they'd win Joe Biden's old Senate seat in Delaware, but a Tea Party candidate beat the favorite Republican in the primary, and it's looking like the seat will stay Democratic. It's hard to find anybody these days who thinks a Republican takeover in the Senate will happen. Still, this is an anything-can-happen election cycle. In West Virginia, a Republican has a shot to win the Senate seat of the late Robert Byrd, a seat held by the legendary Democrat for 51 years. Both parties are pouring money into the state.

Here to break down the hot races and more, Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

Gentlemen, thank you both for being here.

Let's start out, I was told the last time we talked, at least in this forum, was June. Starting with you, Senator Cornyn, what is different in the political landscape from June?

CORNYN: Well, the primaries are over. September the 14th we had our last contested Republican primary, and all of the enthusiasm you see is going to be directed toward turning out vote and providing checks and balances to government that many people see as out of control when it comes to spending and debt, and of course, high joblessness, and the administration seemingly -- seemingly confused about how to get America back to work.

So there's a lot of enthusiasm, and it's all directed toward the administration, the Democratic majority, and restoring those checks and balances that people feel are so necessary to their safety and security.

CROWLEY: Senator Menendez, can you look at anything in the economy or elsewhere that tells you that the dynamic that was there in June, which was running heavily against the Democrats, has changed?

MENENDEZ: Well, certainly, Candy, if we see the generic ballot, that's closing pretty dramatically. A host of our candidates that the national Republican Senatorial Committee has targeted...

CROWLEY: Why do you think it's closing, if I could just ask?

MENENDEZ: ... are doing far better. Well, I think that people are beginning in these last 30 days, which is when they really hone in on the election, looking at the differences. And I look at that "New York Times" poll that says that "who is more likely to fight for the middle class?" By a 55-33 margin, the answer is Democrats.

And so that middle class understands who got us into this economic mess, the Republicans and the eight years of the Bush economic policies; who's trying to turn it around; who fights for them, versus who fights for the special interests every day in the United States Senate. Our Republican colleagues have used the filibuster to stand up for big oil, big business, big insurance, and they understand that's not on their side.

CROWLEY: Let me tell you something, Senator Menendez about one of your colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle, Senator Jim DeMint has a PAC, a political action committee of his own with money in it. He's going to spend it running ads against Majority Leader Harry Reid, against Senator Bennett in Colorado, against Senator Feingold in Wisconsin. Do you have a problem with at all?

MENENDEZ: Well, look, you know, the bottom line is, he -- at least his money is disclosed. The real problem I have is with the $34 million of undisclosed, unknown, shadowy money being spent largely by corporate America, all on the Republican side, against those and other candidates, and they tip the scales rather dramatically to the Republican side.

So I understand why Republicans stand up for big oil, big business, big insurance, because it's paying off now in these millions of dollars of ads against Democrats.

CROWLEY: Senator Cornyn, I have a specific question for you. But go ahead and respond to that, as I'm sure you want to.

CORNYN: Well, if you like the way the country's going now, if you like -- if you live in Nevada, you like 14.4 percent unemployment, where 70 percent of the home mortgages are under water, then I guess the message from Majority Leader Reid and from Senator Menendez is stay the course.

But I think, instead of that, people say, "Well, we're willing to listen to Republicans and independents who are coming our way," two out of every three of them, because they want to provide checks and balances. They want us to stop the runway spending, the unsustainable debt. And they want to put America back to work. And they see the big-government American policies of the last year and a half being an impediment to job creation in America.

CROWLEY: So, getting back to the question I wanted to ask you, which is about Senator DeMint, it seems to me, if I were a betting person, that there may, when you return to Washington in January, be a kind of DeMint wing inside the Republican Party on the Senate side, sort of a party within a party.

So when you look at that, how is that going to work? Because you may get some candidates here who want to get rid or who want Social Security privatized. Some have said they want to lower the minimum wage, things like that. How is that going to work inside the party? Are those things you can sign on to?

CORNYN: Well, some of those are, of course, Democratic talking points, trying to scare people, and of course ,the candidates where those issues have been raises have explained themselves. And I'm not going to relitigate them here.

But let me just say that, I think, when it comes to restoring checks and balances, that's what we're going to see. And a lot of these candidates that Senator Menendez and Democrats have tried to scare people about are taking mainstream positions, and what they feel is that what's really extreme is what we see coming out of Washington, with almost double-digit unemployment, runaway spending and debt. And that's what they want us check...

CROWLEY: But do you think that...

CORNYN: ... and that's what we will do, and I think we'll be unified.

CROWLEY: Do you think that inside the Republican Party, this just sets up another wing that you're going to have to deal with, a division within the party?

CORNYN: Not at all. I think that by and large, the Tea Party movement has been constructive and helpful. It's helped reorient us to our limited government principles and one that believes in the free enterprise system rather than bigger and bigger government and higher and higher taxes and more regulation, which are job killers. So I think -- I think it's been constructive. But now that the primaries are over, we're all unified and focused on our Democratic friends on November the 2nd, and I think they're going to be surprised with the enthusiasm and intensity of the vote going into November 2.

MENENDEZ: I want to...

CROWLEY: Go ahead.

MENENDEZ: I don't think -- I don't think -- I'm not scaring anybody, unless when you use a candidate's own words, they may be scary. When Sharron Angle in Nevada says, "It's not my job as a U.S. senator to try to help create jobs in Nevada; when Ken Buck questions the constitutionality of Social Security and wants to end Medicare; when Ron Johnson in Wisconsin wants to drill in the Great Lakes, those aren't my words. Those are their words.

And when Christine O'Donnell, you know, has positions that are clearly out of the mainstream, which we didn't know about -- you know, in her interest in witchcraft, you know, until 30-something days ago -- those aren't my words. Those are their words.

So I think that these candidates, the problem for the Republicans is that these candidates are out of the mainstream of where their general electorate is at.

CROWLEY: Senator Menendez, Senator Cornyn, let me ask you both to stand by.

We do want to note that Christine O'Donnell was not interested in witchcraft until 30 days ago. It was something she said in high school. It did come out 30 days ago.

But hang on a second. We'll be right back. Much more with senators Corzine [SIC] and Menendez, including their predictions for November. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: We are back with Republican Senator John Cornyn, not to be confused with former Senator Jon Corzine who's from New Jersey. So, my apologizes, Senator Cornyn. Also with us, Democratic Senator Robert Menendez.

I appreciate you both being here. Let me ask you, first, about a couple of things that you all have done or said over time. Senator Menendez, when you -- two days before you left town, you introduced major immigration reform, which Republicans immediately said, well, this is cynical. We're not going to pass it in two days, that this was sort of a blatant appeal for the -- the Latino vote. Why is it not that?

MENENDEZ: Well, first after all, Senator Hatch introduced legislation, a different type of legislation on immigration in the same time, and he's a Republican. I introduced it because if we're going to have any opportunity to, for example, consider the possibility of lame duck movement on it, where a lot of senators are retiring and might be willing to look at the issue, you need something to jump off from.

If we're going to go into it in the early part of the next Congress, you need something to have as a foundation. And what I introduced had a series of Republican initiatives in it, as an invitation to bring my Republican colleagues to the discussion and engage them on a critical issue of the country, both in its national security, it's national economy and how we deal with people in this country who are undocumented.

CROWLEY: And Senator Cornyn, you got a lot of attention recently for going and speaking to the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay constituency in the -- in the Republican Party, also received an award there. Do you think that the Republican Party needs to be more welcoming to minorities, as well as to the gay and lesbian community?

CORNYN: Well, Candy, I'm a social and fiscal conservative, and my record on pro-family provisions or -- or issues is very clear. But I fell it was important to reach out to those who want to try to deal with this runaway administration and majority when it comes to spending and debt and high joblessness. That's something we can -- we can agree on.

But I would say to my friend, Senator Menendez, I -- I hope to work with Senator Menendez on immigration reform, but it's a much too important issue to be treated as a political football or try to jam through during a lame duck session. We know that there are impending tax increases from the expiration of the temporary tax provisions of 2001 that the Democratic Party was so divided on they didn't even put it up for a vote before the November the 2nd election.

That adds to the kind of uncertainty that job creators are feeling, which keeps them sitting on their capital and unfortunately keeps our high unemployment rates too high.

CROWLEY: In our final minute --

MENENDEZ: You held -- you held us hostage to the fact that the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, wants a permanent extension of all the Bush tax cuts, including the top tier, the wealthiest people. That's a $4 trillion expenditure -- fiscally irresponsible. So I don't think it's fair to say that Democrats didn't move forward on that issue when, in fact, you all said we wouldn't move forward on what we -- I thought we agreed on, which is at least the middle class tax cuts, unless you hold them hostage to the wealthiest. That's a $4 trillion expenditure. That's fiscally irresponsible.

CROWLEY: Let me -- let me turn you all to something else you wouldn't agree on, and you were together this week, both talking about the prospects for your party. And I want to play you something from both of you.


CORNYN: Some of the Republican primaries will lead to a tsunami on -- on November the 2nd.

MENENDEZ: I simply think that Democrats are going to have a lot more votes in the United States Senate than people think.


CROWLEY: Senator Cornyn, what's a -- what is a tsunami here? I mean, define the terms of that.

CORNYN: Well, I think there -- this is going to be a wave election, and it's going to be a referendum on the policies, the unpopular policies, coming out of Washington, D.C. during the last year and a half.

And, of course, we've seen where the president has chosen to lecture people and tell them he knows better than they do what's good for them, and Democratic leadership has gone along. And now, I think we're finding the American people pushing back very hard, and that's what I mean by a tsunami.

We've got 11, maybe as many as 12 Senate races in very close -- very close contests. None of our Republican incumbents are in any trouble. The only question is, how many seats we're going to pick up.

I think we're going to have a good day on November the 2nd, so I don't know how high or how wide that tsunami will be, but I think it will be significant.

CROWLEY: Senator Menendez, what does it say to you over the course of -- of last year that you lost Senator -- the late Senator Ted Kennedy's seat, that he had held for decades, and that you are now seeing the seat of the late Robert Byrd in jeopardy in West Virginia? What does that say to you about the changing electorate?

MENENDEZ: Well, look, this is a volatile cycle, Candy. Who would have thought that Mitch McConnell's handpicked candidate in Kentucky would have lost? Who would have thought that in Delaware Mike Castle would not have been the Republican nominee? Who, 32 days ago before that election, would have been asking, who is Christine O'Donnell? So this is a very volatile reality. But, you know, when I hear this tsunami, the Republicans have been saying they're going to win the Triple Crown, which means as the president's seats in Illinois that was vacated, the vice president's seats in Delaware, and the majority leader in Nevada. They're not going to win any of that Triple Crown. We will be in the majority in the United States Senate on November the 3rd.

CROWLEY: But you will lose some seats. Would you concede that?

MENENDEZ: We're fighting for every seat across the country. With midterm election history, the president's party, going to back to the Civil War, it means the president's party loses seats.

But the difference between a tsunami and losing some seats is the suggestion that they can take over the majority. That will not happen.

CROWLEY: Senator Menendez, Senator Cornyn, thank you both for joining us. I have to leave it there, but I really appreciate your time.

MENENDEZ: Thank you, Candy.

CORNYN: Thanks, Candy.

CROWLEY: Up next, we'll look at the growing tensions between the United States and Pakistan when it comes to the fight against terrorism.


CROWLEY: We now turn to Pakistan, a necessary partner the U.S. fight against terrorism. The U.S. sends about $2 billion a year in economic and military aid to encourage Pakistan's cooperation. In May, the relationship seemed on course.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We've gotten more cooperation and it has been a real sea change in the commitment we've seen from the Pakistani government. We want more. We expect more.


CROWLEY: It is far less encouraging now. Amid chatter of planned terrorist attacks in Western Europe, the CIA this week launched a series of unmanned drone attacks into Waziristan, a mountainous region of Pakistan believed to be controlled by the Taliban. As these attacks continue, dozens of militants, including a top al Qaeda commander, have been killed. September saw the highest number of U.S. drone attacks into Pakistan since the war in Afghanistan started in 2001. But the drone assaults, along with a NATO helicopter strike that killed three Pakistani soldiers, weakened the fragile U.S./Pakistan alliance. Pakistan's interior minister put it bluntly: "We will not allow anyone in any case to interfere in Pakistan's territory, and if this continues, we will adopt all the set measures, including military action. I assure you we are quite capable of defending our homeland."

The Pakistan government has temporarily closed a key supply route to Afghanistan, most of the supplies for NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan are brought through Pakistan.

And Friday, militants in southern Pakistan torched 25 NATO trucks carrying fuel for Afghanistan. We talk to Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, next.


CROWLEY: Joining me now here in Washington, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani.

Mr. Ambassador, thank you so much for being here. I want to ask you, first, about a story that is breaking now, which is attributed to a Pakistani official, the information, that you have found or think you have found the link of those who are plotting against Europe, the plot that we heard about this week.

That they are eight Germans, two British brothers, who are hiding out in northern Waziristan. What can you tell us about this?

HAQQANI: First of all, this is an example of how American- Pakistani cooperation works. The United States intelligence agencies have picked up information. They picked up chatter, which was shares with the Pakistani side and the Pakistani side is acting on following up the leads that have been given to Pakistan, and that will make Europe and the United States safer. So we hope.

Beyond that, it's not possible for me to go into the details of intelligence, but all I will say is that we are working together to foil any plot that targets Europe, the United States, or, for that matter, any other part of the world.

CROWLEY: So you're working actively with the U.S., and I'm assuming also European officials?

HAQQANI: Absolutely. Absolutely. The CIA shared intelligence to this effect with the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence, the ISI. Even though the ISI is maligned a lot in the media, the fact remains that it is one of the closest collaborators, partners, and allies of U.S. intelligence.

And in this particular instance, the United States is very happy, I can say this on your show, that American officials have told us that the quality of cooperation they have received from the ISI is really 100 percent. CROWLEY: So I guess the problem comes with the U.S. feeling that, OK, here you've got these suspected terrorists in northern Waziristan, but the Pakistani military will not go after them. That that's why they've had to throw these man-less -- the drone attacks into Pakistan, because Pakistan seems unwilling or unable to go get these suspected terrorists or others.

HAQQANI: I don't think that it is a question of unwilling or unable. It's a question of terrain, of geography. Sometimes people in the United States think about Pakistan and they think that it's all flat land with everything visible. Even the drones cannot identify everyone in north Waziristan because of the complexity of terrain.

The Pakistani military has fought very effectively in Swat, in south Waziristan. In the last two-and-a-half years we have lost more soldiers and more officers than any other country in fighting terrorism.

The only factor about north Waziristan is the capacity of our military at this particular moment to go in. So I think that the issues about ability and will, et cetera, are all behind us. What is going on right now is that Pakistan is saying, we will take care of our terrorists on the Pakistani side of the border, but we will do it on our time line. We can't always follow a time line that our allies set for us, because we are allies, not a satellite.

CROWLEY: Sure. And but you can understand why the U.S., since there are these sort of ongoing threats, as well as ongoing attacks, most of them out of this mountainous region that's so difficult to get to, that the only way to stop the attacks on U.S. troops, on NATO troops, is to go, you know, either cross the border or the helicopters or send the drones over because of the difficulty you're talking about.

HAQQANI: The drones and the helicopters are two different things. And I spoke to General Petraeus last night. He called me from Kabul. I've known him when he was CENTCOM commander. And we speak regularly. He assured me, for example, that they will resolve the issue over the NATO tanker supply line.

He understands that Pakistan has not stopped it as a political retaliation but actually only to make the convoys more secure because of the circumstances.

Look, what we have in Pakistan is a complex political reality. Americans often look at their own politics, and you cover it every week and you still can't make sense of it for the ordinary viewer, that al; politics is local. And the local situation in Pakistan is that the United States is not very popular amongst our public.

Secretary Clinton, when she went there, twice, she tried to reach out to the Pakistani people, Ambassador Holbrooke always reaches out to the Pakistani people, General Jones and Admiral Mullen have worked very hard to cultivate Pakistani leaders.

But the fact remains that an elected democratic government in Pakistan is limited by public opinion to the extent of what it can do.

HAQQANI: People in Washington sometimes get all excited, and these days, because Pakistan is the story, therefore every John, Joe and Jane covers it and tries to cover the complexities of the story in a simplistic way.

Pakistan is an American ally. America depends on Pakistan. We can't and do not do everything that the Americans think we should do because sometimes we don't have the capacity, sometimes we don't have the means. We work those things out, and that is exactly what we are doing right now.

Minus all of the political noise, the fact remains that we are working together. Pakistan will go after all terrorist groups that are in our soil, and we have done it over the last two and a half years, and the few groups that are remaining, we will target them. We will target them with American help, but it will be technical help. It will not be personnel on ground.

CROWLEY: Well, you mentioned the supply line that's been cut off, one of many that are there, but this one supply line. Now, a lot of people look at it and think that this was punitive because that -- unfortunately, the three Pakistani military members were killed in a helicopter attack from NATO.

However, you -- you say it's to make them safer. Whichever it is, when will that supply line be opened?

HAQQANI: I think the supply line will be open relatively quickly. According to --

CROWLEY: When is that (ph)?

HAQQANI: I'll explain it to you.

According to General Petraeus, the Pakistani team has already arrived in (INAUDIBLE) to investigate the incident. Look, allies have to reassure each other that if they kill the personnel of the other side, it -- it was -- it was basically because of the fog of war and not because of any deliberate action, and that's important. And the Americans have assured us that it was because of that. So we'll investigate it jointly.

On the security side, we can't take the risk of letting convoys pass at a time when people are enraged. There are tribal people there who are not necessarily fully under the control of the government of Pakistan. We are working that issue. I do not expect this blockade to continue for too long. It's not a blockade. It's just a temporary suspension of the convoys moving through. The other route in Pakistan through Chaman is still open. And 70 percent of NATO supply go through Pakistan to Afghanistan.

The problem, Candy, and I don't mean to be offensive, is the 24/7 news cycle. Everybody needs a headline. So the convoy is stopped. Well, it's a story till it gets open. And I think we live with it. We live beyond it. The alliance will endure. CROWLEY: Mr. Ambassador, do you think this will happen within the next week?

HAQQANI: I think it will happen in less than that duration.

CROWLEY: Less than a week? OK.

Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

HAQQANI: Pleasure being here.

CROWLEY: Up next, Donna Brazile and Ed Gillespie tell us what to watch for in the final weeks of the campaign season.


CROWLEY: Thirty days from the election, but Thursday it felt a little bit like it was all over. There was Republican Leader John Boehner laying out what he would do as Speaker of the House.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: Let's do away with the idea of comprehensive spending bills. Congress should also review its internal committee structure. The text of all bills should be published online for at least three days.

We need to do something about earmarks. We can't just keep kicking the can down the road. We're running out of road.


CROWLEY: And while the man who would like to be speaker pitched his party's agenda, the Democratic National Committee released an ad using the prospects of a Boehner-controlled House to scare Democrats to the polls.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's been in Washington for decades. He knows how the game works. He created the game. And he's taken millions from special interests.

And now, John Boehner wants to talk about reforming Congress? Now, that's funny.


CROWLEY: All this fuss over a man most people couldn't pick out of a lineup. Fifty-five percent of voters are unsure how they feel about the minority leader.

Up next, two people we know have an opinion about John Boehner -- Donna Brazile and Ed Gillespie.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CROWLEY: Joining me now from Washington, Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor Donna Brazile, and former RNC chairman and former White House counselor, Ed Gillespie. Welcome, both.


CROWLEY: I -- there was an op-ed by Thomas Friedman in "The New York Times" today, and I wanted to read you a little bit of it and get your reaction. "There is going to be a serious third party candidate in 2012, with a serious political movement behind him or her -- one definitely big enough to impact the election's outcome." And he says if the parties don't clean up their act, because they're both so terrible.

What do you think? Third party?

ED GILLESPIE, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: It's hard. I'd be surprised if -- I wouldn't be surprise if there were a third party candidate who emerges, but I'm not sure that he's right in terms of the impact it's -- it's going to have.

But I think if Republicans gain control of the House, and they don't do the things that they're saying they're going to do in the course of this campaign, we could certainly open up the potential for Tea Party candidates and others to -- to not run in Republican primaries or run as Republicans but to run as third party. I'm not sure if Friedman was talking about someone trying to run up the middle, but --

CROWLEY: Yes. He called it the -- I can't remember, but, yes. He was talking about centrist, basically --


CROWLEY: But there's just no room any more.


CROWLEY: He also talked, Donna, about the -- said he was floored by the anger out there at both parties in Washington in general. You're out there a lot.

BRAZILE: Candy, there's no question that, at some point, we will have a serious third-party candidate who will have a lot of money to spend, because Ed and I both understand that, to get on ballot in some of these states, require you to have a lot of money and a lot of grassroots support.

But I don't think that's going to happen any time soon. We might see someone emerge, but we face a very difficult choice in this coming election season. Democrats are clearly out there trying to harness this anger to talk about solutions. You know, here are the problems we inherited. Here are some of the things that we're trying to do to make life better.

Republicans, on the other hand, just put out their Pledge to America, which many Democrats have already labeled as more of the same. But I think in this interim period, independents are feeling isolated. They want to -- they want to support one of these two parties, the Democrats and Republicans, but they feel like the Republicans are not listening, the Democrats are not listening. So that -- that's a small hole for somebody to fill in that vacuum.

GILLESPIE: But in this election, those independents have moved largely into the Republican column. I think you're going to see on election day, firsts big intensity and strong turnout from Republicans, but watch the post-election surveys. The lion's share, by a big margin of self-identified independents, will have voted for Republican candidates to Congress.

BRAZILE: I think they're stalling, Ed. Because if you look across this country this weekend, you see in Kentucky the race has narrowed between Conway and Paul -- Rand Paul. Up in Connecticut, the race has narrowed. And in states across the country.

So I think independents are taking a look at some of these Tea Party extremists and saying, "You know what? Not on my watch."

So I think Democrats have an opportunity to not only rally their base but to go out to those independents and say, "Look, when we took office, this country was hemorrhaging $800,000 -- 800,000 jobs a month. We haven't turned the corner, but we're on that road to making things better for you."

CROWLEY: And that really frames the election, right? It's the Democrats going, "Hey, we're on the right track. You really don't want to give it back to these people who cause all these problems" and the Republicans saying, "Good heavens, they've only compounded the problem, and what have we got to show for it?" Is that...?

GILLESPIE: And that Democratic message is so dissonant from where the voters are. We're not on the right track. In fact, if you look at the right direction-wrong track numbers, the vast majority of Americans believe the country's on the wrong track.

When Republicans say -- and note, rightly -- that this president, this administration, has increased the debt more in 18 months than President Bush did in eight years, when you note that, you know, we're going to have the largest tax increase in American history hit our economy in a time we're trying to create jobs, going to hammer investors, going to hammer small business owners on January 1, 2011.

For Congress to have left town without having addressed that and to leave that hanging out there, that uncertainty that is part of the job-killing agenda of this Democratic Congress, this administration, I think they're going to pay a price for it.

CROWLEY: And the -- and the tax -- specifically on the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, which comes January 1 or December 31, it could play either way. You could -- the Democrats, you know, can go out and say, "Hey, listen, those Republicans blocked us again, because they want to give tax cuts to the rich." But I've also heard people say, Donna, "No, it's like here's Congress. They can't -- they don't have the guts to go ahead and take a vote on this. If that's what they believe, they should have taken a vote."

BRAZILE: You know, when the Republicans passed the tax program, they -- they passed it with the premise that they would expire come 2011. So the tax cuts will expire at the end of the year, unless Congress come back in the lame duck session and decide to do something about extending it for the middle class.

Taxes are at their lowest in 60 years. President Obama, again, when he took office, $1.3 trillion in debt. So the notion that somehow or another he's doubled the national debt, a debt that President Bush did not have when he took office. His -- President Bush inherited a surplus from President Clinton and Vice President Gore.

But look, we keep rehashing the past. We keep talking about, "Well, if we go back to the past..."

CROWLEY: Aren't Democrats the ones doing that? Reaction (ph)?

BRAZILE: Well, the reason why, because the Republicans are coming out of the wilderness fueled by this anger of about 15, 20 percent of the American people, but what have they learned? What have they done over the last 18 months on Capitol Hill to show the American people that, "Look, we care about your jobs. We care about your future. We care about education. We care about infrastructure"? The only thing they care about is winning the next election.

GILLESPIE: Let me answer the question. Every step of the way, Republicans have put forward a positive alternative to the Democratic agenda, whether it was on stimulus, health care, energy policy, the budget. And the fact is that the Republicans have put forward this Pledge to America. We just saw the clip from Minority Leader Boehner, hopefully going to be Speaker Boehner, talking about if Republicans take control, what are reforms that they're going to enact in terms of the House of Representatives, very much needed reforms: allowing for people to be able to read bills before they're voted on; allowing for amendments and for floor debating.

In the House, you know, Donna and I came up through the House. We're House people. And it would be nice to see a legitimate debate on the floor of the House again instead of just bringing a 2,000-page bill down to the floor and making members vote up or down on it. That would be good for the institution. BRAZILE: They didn't add earmarks, because Republicans are going back to the past, the past policies that led us down this road of fiscal uncertainty.

GILLESPIE: He did mention earmarks. Yes.

CROWLEY: They did say he would do earmarks. But let me, you know -- let me face you toward the White House now, the exit of Rahm Emanuel, the at least interim appointment, I guess, of Pete Rouse. What is it -- what's our signal here? What are we to take away from the replacement for Rahm Emanuel?

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, I wish Rahm the best. He served his country, served the president, served the party, and now he's trying to serve the people of Illinois -- Chicago, Illinois.

I think it's a gift to President Obama. This will be an opportunity for the president to have a fresh, new team with some fresh thinking to once again focus like a laser beam on jobs, the economy, implementing the health-care reform bill, implementing the Wall Street reform bill. This will give the president an opportunity to start the second half of his first term with a lot more energetic players on the bench.

GILLESPIE: Well, you know, it's -- I think there's an opportunity missed here, but I understand why. I don't know Pete Rouse. By all accounts he's a good guy and will be a good chief of staff. I guess they're trying to get him to stay permanent, not just interim, if you believe the reports.

But I think they would have benefited from bringing someone in from outside the inner circle rather than elevating from within. But I can understand, given the -- what's likely to be a very tumultuous period here if you -- if my projection is right and Republicans gain control of the House and we have major gains in the Senate. It's understandable that they wouldn't want to -- want to manage that transition from an external perspective, to also have a big transition and something to disrupt it from an internal perspective.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about something that we heard at the beginning of the show, and that is Vice President Biden sort of taking out after the progressives, saying they're whining, and they need to buck up and get out there. And then you hear the president say this is just irresponsible to say that you're going to sit home. Is that like a way to win voters and influence people?

BRAZILE: Well, if you attended the rally yesterday -- I did. It was inspiring. That's the way to inspire liberals and progressives and middle-of-the-road Americans. They want to know what you're planning to do to help them and their family and their communities.

I understand tough love is important in this business. It's a strategy to try to motivate them. But you know what Democrats are motivated by? They're motivated by seeing the Republicans, you know, measure the drapes, knowing they're going to come up short if the Republicans win this fall. GILLESPIE: I think there's a lot of frustration, obviously, in the White House, and they're lashing out everywhere. They're lashing out at Republicans. They're lashing out at John Boehner by name, the president himself is. They're lashing out at the professional left.

CROWLEY: Congress.

GILLESPIE: They're lashing out at Congress and pundits. And you know, that's -- you know, it's a tough situation when you're in a situation where, 30 days out from election, the majority of voters have rejected your agenda. They think that you're off on the wrong track, and you're at around 46, 45 percent approval rating. It's understandable. But I'm not sure it's helpful, to answer your question.

BRAZILE: (inaudible) the highest approval rating of anyone and why Republicans are...

CROWLEY: Not on the ballot and all that. He's got plenty of time to make it up.

I've got, like, a really brief time left, but I want to hear your predictions on how many House seats go to Republicans. They need a magic 39.

BRAZILE: First of all I think we've made too much about the Republicans making a lot of gains. I think the Democrats will hold onto the House, hold onto the Senate. History suggests that we'll lose seats. Some of these seats are ruby-red districts that Democrats won in '06 and '08. We will retain a great many of these seats.

GILLESPIE: I think it will be a minimum of 45 and probably north of that in the House. So I think Republicans will capture control. I think we'll be very close in the Senate. I think we'll probably have a net gain of eight governorships, and it will be ten legislative chambers around the country that flip from Democratic to Republican. It's going to be a very big-wave election.

CROWLEY: And my personal opinion is, it's going to be a really exciting one. Ed Gillespie...


CROWLEY: Yes. Ed Gillespie, Donna Brazile, thank you guys so much. I appreciate it.

GILLESPIE: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Up next, a check of today's top headlines and then, Congress comes through for a big constituency -- TV watchers.


CROWLEY: Time for a check of today's top stories. The U.S. State Department has issued a travel alert for U.S. citizens in Europe. The alert is based on information that suggests that al Qaeda and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks in European cities. European governments have also stepped up security to guard against a terrorist attack.

The Afghan government has formally banned eight private security firms, including the company formerly called Blackwater. At a press conference Sunday, a spokesman for President Hamid Karzai said the security firms have handed over their weapons and they will be prevented from operating inside the country.

Also in Afghanistan, government officials say a NATO air strike targeting a Taliban meeting in Helmand province killed at least 17 people, including some Taliban commanders, and three civilians. NATO says they are still investigating the report of civilian casualties.

Iran's intelligence minister said authorities have arrested nuclear spies in connection with a damaging worm that infected computers in its nuclear program. Tehran has insisted its nuclear program has not been compromised by the virus.

Iran's president is calling for U.S. leaders to be, quote, "buried" in response to threats of a military attack on Tehran's nuclear program. The Associated Press reports that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used a deeply offensive insult directed at the United States in his speech today. U.S. officials say that a military option is on the table, but have not directly threatened Iran with a military strike.

California's gubernatorial debate aimed at Latino voters turned into an angry exchange last night when Republican Meg Whitman accused Democrat Jerry Brown of orchestrating the scandal over her former housekeeper who is in the country illegally.


MEG WHITMAN (R), CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Jerry, you know, you should be ashamed. You and your surrogates put her deportation at risk. You put her out there and you should be ashamed for sacrificing Nicky Diaz on the al altar of your political ambitions. JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL, GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Don't run for governor if you can't say, hey, I made a mistake.


CROWLEY: A CNN/TIME Opinion Research poll done before Whitman's housekeeper story came to light showed Brown leading by 9 points.

Those are your top stories here on STATE OF THE UNION. Up next, Congress didn't vote on those tax cuts but something did get done before leaving town.


CROWLEY: Congress left town this week without dealing with the Bush tax cuts, which expire at the end of December, and without doing budget business for fiscal year 2011, which started last Friday. Everybody blamed politics and each other.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: The minority strategy has been obvious for some time. It's to legislate as little as possible.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I think the one thing we can clearly say about our friends on the other side of the aisle, they have a unified desire to leave town.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CROWLEY: But it was not a total bust. In fact, the Senate had a unanimous vote, let's say that again, a unanimous Senate vote on an issue that strikes a chord in one of the biggest voting blocs in the country. Ever gone to sleep to the news only to be blasted off the coach by an ad?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow! That's a low price!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wee! Wee, wee, wee!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the best car insurance rates online, go to the general and save some time!


CROWLEY: Twenty-one of the last 25 quarterly reports from the FCC listed loud TV commercials as a top complaint, which brings us to that crowd-pleasing Senate vote for the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, better known as CALM.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow, that's a low price!



CROWLEY: When the bill is signed, ads will be banned from being louder than the TV program they are interrupting. Co-sponsor Chuck Schumer noted: "It's about time we turned down the volume on loud commercials that try to startle TV watchers into paying attention."

It got us to thinking.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I don't what know what the deal is. I don't know what the deal was...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell us then, the deal. Tell us, Senator, the deal.

MCCAIN: Well, we'll find out what the deal was, just like the deals...


CROWLEY: What about the "Serious Talk Only Please Act," or, "STOP"? A voter can dream.

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.