Return to Transcripts main page
State of the Union
Interview With Robert Gibbs; Interview With Janet Napolitano
Aired December 26, 2010 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: A December to remember for President Obama, a deal on the Bush tax cut extension, approval of his missile reduction treaty with the Russians and repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The guy who took of for a Christmas vacation in Hawaii did not look or sound like the same one who got nailed in the November elections.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I'm doing a whole lot of reflecting and there are going to be areas in policy where we're going to have to do a better job. You know, I think that over the last two years we have made a series of very tough decisions.
This has been the most productive post-election period we've had in decades and it comes on the heels of the most productive two years that we've had in generations.
There's a reason we have two parties in this country, in both Democrats and Republicans who have certain beliefs and certain principles that each feels cannot be compromised.
We are not doomed to endless gridlock. We've shown in the wake of the November elections that we have the capacity, not only to make progress but to make progress together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: A good month for the president, but in politics as in war, sic transit gloria, all glory is fleeting. It's the next two years that will determine whether he gets another four. The as an invigorated president takes a holiday break, his spokesman Robert Gibbs. And a year after the Christmas day bomber the state of play this holiday season with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Then the broad view with former intelligence heads General Michael Hayden and Admiral Mike McConnell.
And really getting to know our guest this is year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a big construction project on Capitol Hill near the house that I live in, with George Miller and Chuck Schumer, and we were inundated by rats, I mean it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley. And this is State of the Union.
Joining me here in Washington, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Happy holidays to you.
GIBBS: Happy holidays to you.
CROWLEY: thanks for being here.
Let me take a slightly different view of the great, great month for the president, and it was, but let me argue that there was something hanging over his head, and that is you all didn't want January to come while you watched every American have a paycheck that got smaller. So there's nothing like something hanging over your head to get something done. What about this lame duck session encourages you that when you get to big ticket items and cutting spending, and other things, immigration reform, that you're actually going to be able to duplicate the kind of let's call it cranky bipartisanship that we saw in December.
GIBBS: Well, I would say this, Candy, I think you're absolutely right that I think neither party wanted to see taxes go up on middle class families.
CROWLEY: The true goal.
GIBBS: Right. And look, the president did not want to see tax cuts extended for millionaires and billionaires but we didn't have the votes for our position to prevail. You're right we are going to have some tough issues coming into the next congress and over the next couple of years. I think a couple of things can help what has happened in the last few weeks bleed over into next year. I think, and you heard the president say this at his year-end news conference, there was a responsibility of government that I think the Republicans got in the November elections and they began to understand that responsibility a little bit more in this lame duck than they had in the previous, quite frankly, 18 or so months. They realize now...
CROWLEY: They didn't have the responsibility in the last 18 or so months that they have now.
GIBBS: Exactly my point. They understand that to a certain degree, they have had over the past few weeks in this lame duck session and they're definitely going to have on January 5th responsibility for running half of congress. They can't afford any longer to just simply sit and say no, they have to be part of a constructive conversation, and I think that's what exactly what happened.
I think also everyone put aside politics and partisan interests to put forward what was best for the American people. There will be plenty of time for an election in 2012 and for elections beyond. Let's resolve to make 2011 a year in which both political parties can put aside future political gains and decide to concentrate on what's best for the American people.
CROWLEY: I just never thought of you as an optimist but let me say Mitch McConnell, senate Republican leader told me in a recent interview - so I said where do you want -- what next? Where can you see yourself coming together with the president? He said entitlement reform. I can see us doing that.
Are you game at the White House for entitlement reform? And what does that mean specifically? Would you agree to a larger, a higher age for retirement and Social Security? Would you agree for some sort of means testing of Medicare? Where are you all willing to look?
GIBBS: Well look, I think you've touched on what we need most of all and that is a willingness for both political parties to sit at that table, like we did for the tax agreement, like we did for the START agreement, though we didn't have Senator McConnell's support on that, and be willing to discuss issues. The president obviously wants to strengthen our entitlement programs for future generations. We have to do something about our mid and long-term deficit and debt problems. We have an education plan that has to be reauthorized every few years. That's coming up next year, and I think that provides an occasion for bipartisanship.
But I think most of all, each of these two parties and we are certainly hopeful that the Republicans come into next year with a willingness to sit down at that table and begin having a discussion about how we're going to make progress. Sometimes the first step is the biggest one.
CROWLEY: So you're going to have to cut programs. I think everybody does know that. So you have it seems to me some sort of competing things here. You have the base of the party that says wait a second, don't cut Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, you know, the tax cuts are what's really to blame for this. And they're afraid the president and they are going to get the blame for this.
GIBBS: Well, let's understand what we got as Democrats and progressives out of this tax agreement. Middle class families as you started off this interview saying won't see their tax bill go up. Middle class families will see money directly in their pockets as a result of a payroll tax cut and for people who have lost their jobs as a result of reckless decisions made on Wall Street aren't going to have to play politics or have politics played with them in terms of their unemployment benefits.
We could have fought this for a few months. We could have hoped that the polls didn't blame everybody as they would have for people's taxes going up, and when we come back into congress in January and probably not gotten half of what we had gotten.
So I think first and foremost this president, this president was animated by one single thing, what is the best thing for our economy and that tax agreement was the very best thing we could have done for our economy.
CROWLEY: A couple of quick issues. The first is, we are a month away from being a year late in closing down Guantanamo Bay prison. When is that prison going to close?
GIBBS: I don't -- it's certainly not going to close in the next month. I think it's probably going to be a while before that prison closes. CROWLEY: Another year?
GIBBS: I think part of this depends on the Republicans' willingness to work with the administration on this. And the question is, are Republicans willing to listen to General David Petraeus? Are they willing to listen to others in the national security arena that have told us and will tell them and quite frankly told the public that al Qaeda recruits young people to do harm, to try to blow up airplanes, to blow up themselves and kill others. They use that as a recruiting tool. The question is are we going to continue to have and let al Qaeda use Guantanamo Bay as a recruiting tool?
CROWLEY: The Republicans did not figure into the president's promise to close down Guantanamo Bay when he was campaigning. You could close it down, but you're not closing it down. So what is holding you back? It's that you don't have anyplace to put them, correct?
GIBBS: Well, obviously there are prohibitions legislatively on the transfer of some of the prisoners that are there into some part of this country, some would be tried in federal courts as we've seen done in the past, some would be tried in military commissions, likely spending the rest of their lives in a maximum security prison that nobody, including terrorists, have ever escaped from and some regrettably will have to be indefinitely detained, I say regrettably not because it's a bad thing necessarily for them in terms of the fact that they're very dangerous people and we have to make sure that even if we can't prosecute them, we're not putting them back out on the battlefield.
CROWLEY: Why is it so hard to replace Larry Summers who was supposed to leave in the fall, top economic adviser to the president? Where is his replacement?
GIBBS: Well, first and foremost Larry continues to be on the job and helping the president and the economic team and will do so through the end of the year. I expected the president will make an announcement on a new NEC director probably the first week or two weeks after congress comes back into session.
I think obviously it's an important part of our economic team, and the president wants to take some time to make a good decision because as you mentioned we have had a lot on our plates the last couple weeks.
CROWLEY: You have.
And quickly, do you expect big changes in cabinet shuffles?
GIBBS: I don't expect quite honestly big changes. I think we've had a very capable and good cabinet that has helped move the president's agenda forward. I think there's obviously a lot that has to be done at Treasury to implement financial reform at HHS to implement health care reform. And I think we have very talented team.
CROWLEY: And the president is running for re-election. Can we write that sentence?
GIBBS: I don't -- he has not told me that but I would assume most of -- most people are planning for that likely to happen, yes.
CROWLEY: Certainly you have David Axelrod leaving the White House to start up the re-election, so it would come as news to you if the president wasn't going to run for re-election?
GIBBS: It would come as news to me because I think, Candy, he understands that there's a lot of work that's left to do. When he walked into that White House, we were shedding 700,000, 800,000 jobs in a month. Now for 11 straight months we've added jobs.
So we're making progress and I know he wants to continue making that progress and finish those jobs.
CROWLEY: Robert Gibbs, happy New Year.
GIBBS: Happy New Year. Thanks for having me.
CROWLEY: Up next, one year after a failed terror plot on Christmas Day, is the U.S. any safer?
CROWLEY: Christmas Day a year ago passengers on a Northwest Airlines flight bound from Amsterdam to Detroit subdue a passenger trying to blow up the plane and use a fire extinguisher to put out flames on his trousers. 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the son of a prominent Nigerian businessman, had slipped explosives on to the plane by sewing them into his underwear.
Two days later, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano appeared on this program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NAPOLITANO: One thing I'd like to point out is that the system worked. Every played an important role here, that the passengers and crew of the flight took appropriate action.
CROWLEY: You want Americans to feel safe on the planes and so if it was properly screened and he got on anyway with that, it doesn't feel that safe? NAPOLITANO: Well, you know, it should. This was one individual of literally thousands that fly and thousands of flights every year. He was stopped before any damage could be done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: The Christmas Day bombing attempt and other terrorist threats this year led to this, enhanced pat-downs and full body scanners are in many American airports, igniting a passionate debate over the balance between safety and privacy and whether any of this really makes us safer.
Up next, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
CROWLEY: Joining me now here in Washington, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Thank you so much for being here with us on a holiday weekend.
NAPOLITANO: Thank you.
CROWLEY: I want to talk first about pat-downs. It has been about six weeks, maybe, since we noticed the enhanced pat-downs. What have you learned since then about what works and doesn't work? Has anything changed?
NAPOLITANO: Not for the foreseeable future. You know, we're always looking to improve systems and so forth. But the new technology, the pat-downs, is just objectively safer for our traveling public.
But in the meantime, I think it's important to note that what you see at the gate with the pat-down and the new machine is -- it's just part of a longer system that begins for international travelers, actually, internationally, with new partnerships that we have developed, particularly over the past year, with enhanced relationships with the private carriers, with enhanced ability to match ticketing information against other lists that we have.
So there's a whole kind of intel-based system that's going on and then we get to the actual gate.
CROWLEY: When you say that this has helped, we also know, from various reports and -- and people speaking on background, an ABC report out that 70 percent, sometimes, at majority airports -- there are some major airports who had a 70 percent failure rate at detecting guns, knives, bombs, that they got through in your tests that you all do to see how good security is.
So how good can it be when you have major airports with a 70 percent fail rate?
NAPOLITANO: Well, first of all, I think I know the tests to which you refer. Many of them are very old and out of date and there were all kinds of methodology issues with them. Let's set those aside.
What we know is that we pick up contraband now and we pick up more contraband with the new procedures and the new machinery. What we know is that you can't measure the -- the devices that we are deterring from going on a plane. What we know is that...
CROWLEY: Just people who just are discouraged, thinking they'd be found out...
NAPOLITANO: Exactly. And then what we have to do is say, well, what other ways are they thinking to commit an act? Because our job is not only to react, but to be thinking always ahead, what could be happening.
And so we have enhanced measures going on at surface transportation, not because we have a specific or credible threat there, but because we know, looking at Madrid and London, that has been another...
CROWLEY: Trains, subways...
CROWLEY: That's what you're talking about?
NAPOLITANO: That has been another source of targets for terrorists. It means, as we make the -- the land borders harder to cross from a land border crossing standpoint, that we need to be looking out into our coasts and to the waters. And so that brings that into play.
So I guess the overall message is everything is objectively better than it was a year ago, particularly in the aviation environment. But we're also looking at threats in other areas...
CROWLEY: And how do you measure that? I mean, because if we have a failure rate, we -- we have, anecdotally, the man who had a -- a license for a gun, forgot that he had it and something terrible -- it was a Glock.
He got all the way to his hotel room at the other end of the airport trip and said, holy cow, a Glock went through airport security, not in his luggage, as he -- when we went through, putting it through the machine.
CROWLEY: So that tells me -- and there is some criticism that perhaps you all have relied too much on let's get the latest technology, let's bring in this new bell and whistle, let's do this, let's do that, all of which are good, but that you don't have people that are trained well enough to stop some of this stuff.
NAPOLITANO: Well, first of all, we process one-and-a-half, two million passengers per day. And if...
CROWLEY: But it just takes one Glock...
NAPOLITANO: -- if there were an incident, then it's immediately looked at as to well, how was that missed?
And if there needs to be retraining of the individuals involved or if there was a failure in the equipment, that's immediately addressed.
But our -- our TSOs are trained are highly trained and we're constantly looking at ways to improve their training. And these are individuals who -- these are the ones that have to work Thanksgiving weekend. These are the ones that have been working this holiday weekend. These are the...
CROWLEY: I don't think it's about hard work. I think it's just about people saying if these things are getting through at a failure rate -- and I'm assuming you still have a failure rate -- you know more than anyone that one is really too many, that -- that perhaps there needs to be more training, not that they aren't working hard or doing their jobs to the best of their ability.
NAPOLITANO: Well, you know, in law enforcement, we're always looking at ways to improve and increase training. But I don't think you can extrapolate from one anecdote to an entire system, that there's failures in the entire system. So...
CROWLEY: Well, what is your fail rate?
CROWLEY: What are you finding?
NAPOLITANO: Well, my fail rate is zero. I mean we want nothing to get aboard a plane that is not safe. So when something does get aboard, if something does get through the system, and a -- and, again, as I explained, it's many, many layers before you even get to the Magnetometer or the new machine.
If something does get through, then we immediately go backward and say, OK, what happened here and -- and repair that deficiency.
CROWLEY: When you say that you also have to be proactive, not just reactive, what is coming down the pike?
What are you -- when you look out there and you say, OK, you know, we've done the underwear bomber, we've done the shoe bomber, we've done the -- you know, and so we've now put things -- systems in place to try to stop that sort of thing, what are you looking at?
What's coming next?
NAPOLITANO: Well, one of the things we look at is what other avenues might they select as...
NAPOLITANO: ...as a target. So we look at other kinds of transportation venues. We look at so-called soft targets, the hotels, shopping malls, for example, all of which we have reached out to in the past year and a fair amount of training for their own employees, as well.
CROWLEY: You have started this -- the safe -- "see something, say something" slogan, asking citizens to get involved, telling this to store owners, you know, that kind of thing.
I -- I feel like this is one of those kinds of things where, let's say I have a neighbor from Yemen and he's having late night parties at his house regularly on Thursday night.
Do I say something?
I mean I -- I feel like this is so fraught with turn -- ratting your neighbor out.
NAPOLITANO: You know, it turns out -- "see something, say something" has been in -- in place in several major cities in the United States for years. I mean it actually started post-9/11 with the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority. And they've had it in place. And it's been in place in some other communities.
All we have done is expand it. And the reason we have is because we want the citizenry of the United States to be alert, not alarmed, but alert -- alert to situations, alert to unattended packages at the airport or unattended bags at a bus stop, alert to things that are highly unusual that would, for example, if you're a street vendor in New York and you see a car you haven't seen before parked and there's smoke coming out of it...
CROWLEY: Well, sure...
NAPOLITANO: -- suggest that you should let law enforcement...
CROWLEY: -- I think that's sort of obvious...
NAPOLITANO: -- know.
CROWLEY: But do you...
NAPOLITANO: And then...
CROWLEY: Will -- do you think that there might be some sort of over reaching that you could turn in -- so this person is acting suspiciously or that person is doing this. It just sounds very Big Brother to me, turning in the next door neighbor or the guy who...
NAPOLITANO: Well, it...
CROWLEY: -- just walked off in...
NAPOLITANO: -- it's not. It depends on the common sense of the American people. I think they have common sense. And it depends on, again, getting a head -- getting through this notion that our safety, our security and -- and the world we live in today is a -- a shared responsibility. The Department of Homeland Security obviously has a huge responsibility there, as does the federal government as a whole, as does state and local law enforcement, as does the private sector, as does our work with our international partners.
But citizens themselves can pay -- can play an important role, as well. CROWLEY: Let me ask you about DNI, James Clapper. A lot has been made about the fact that he did not know, several hours after the fact, of the 12 arrests in Britain of suspected terrorists.
How did is he not know?
How did that happen?
NAPOLITANO: Well, I think he's been pretty up front about it. He had been working on the Hill on issues involving START and North Korea and went into the interview before his briefer had a chance to brief him.
CROWLEY: You just might be a little disconcerted and say well, I thought now we were all talking together and all of a sudden the -- the DNI does not know of a major terrorist bust in -- in Britain.
NAPOLITANO: Well, let's -- let's be fair. It -- I knew. John Brennan knew. We also knew there was no connect that had been perceived to anything going on in the homeland and that we were in perfect connectivity with our -- our colleagues in Britain.
So one of the things I think that should be very clear to the American people is that those of us in Homeland Security who needed to know, we knew.
CROWLEY: Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security secretary, thanks for joining us.
NAPOLITANO: Thank you.
CROWLEY: Up next, we'll talk about what the intelligence community can do better, with two of the most accomplished spies.
CROWLEY: Joining me now here in Washington, Michael Hayden, a retired Air Force general and former director of the CIA, and Mike McConnell, retired vice admiral in the United States Navy and former director of National Intelligence.
Thank you all and happy holidays.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
CROWLEY: I want to start with an interesting interview that the Attorney General Eric Holder did with ABC, which was actually sort of frightening in reading it. And what he was most focused on was home- grown terrorism, that is United States citizens who want to blow up their fellow American citizens.
When you look at the landscape, where do you expect the next big attack to come from, since everyone expects there will be one. Will it be homegrown or do you think Yemen, Somalia -- what do you worry about most?
MCCONNELL: Well, in my view, it could be either. In looking at the attorney general's interview, he commented that 126 people have been indicted and 40 percent of those were Americans. So the fact that you could sit in Yemen or Pakistan and, on the Internet, put out this information about their view and jihad and so on, and someone here could read it and become radicalized by it is the real issue.
So it could be something internal. It could be something coming into the country from an external source. So we're at a point in our history where we have to be very, very vigilant.
CROWLEY: But one is harder to fight than the other, isn't it?
HAYDEN: Well, it is. I mean, we -- our security services have actually gotten quite good against the traditional kind of threat, rather complex, slow-moving plot, organized very likely from the tribal region of Pakistan, lots of threads, takes time to develop. We detect a thread, grow it up, pretty much have the fur ball of the plot; we can disrupt the plot. And we've done that over about the last 10 years.
The new flavor of threat, more likely to come from a franchise than from Al Qaida, made in Pakistan, more likely to be low-threshold, rather than the traditional high-threshold mass casualty attack.
CROWLEY: Explain low threshold. So, in other words, that's measured by fatalities?
HAYDEN: Fatalities and the level of violence. And now, as the attorney general points out, more likely than in the past to come from someone who has every reason to be in the United States, has American personhood, whether it's a green card or as a citizen.
That's -- that's a witch's brew. And, as you suggest, it's much more difficult for us to defend against those kinds of attack. The only -- the only good news is that they're less likely to succeed and...
CROWLEY: Because they're amateurs, basically?
HAYDEN: And they will be less lethal if they do succeed. But they will unfortunately almost certainly be more numerous.
MCCONNELL: Interesting point I would make, just to -- just for the sake of the listeners here, as -- General Hayden and I served in the previous administration, and it was criticized for being aggressive and so on. And there was a lot of rhetoric during the political campaign for electing new representatives.
My observation is the new administration has been as aggressive if not more aggressive in pursuing these issues, because they're real. And so, regardless of which side of the political spectrum...
CROWLEY: And you commend them for that? MCCONNELL: I do commend them for that. But the point was that, regardless of which side of the political spectrum you come from or what your political views might be, these threats are very real and very serious and we have to -- have to deal with them in a very serious way.
CROWLEY: It's impossible, though -- just talking now about home- grown terrorism, it's impossible to stop all of them. This is like, to me, a little bit like trying to stop gang warfare. There's always going to be a vulnerable young man or woman out there who is angry or has an axe to grind about something, that will join up.
HAYDEN: One of the ways I describe it, when people ask me about it, is that we've gotten to the point now, these low-threshold attacks, that it's almost like penalty kicks in soccer. No matter how good your goalie is, sooner or later this ball is going to get into the back of the net.
Now, here's what's very important, Candy. We cannot allow our response to that kind of event to turn a tactical success for Al Qaida into a strategic defeat for us by the way we respond to it, either in overreacting to it or suppressing our commerce or our convenience, or going spasmodic and dismantling the security services and the intelligence services that have actually kept us pretty safe.
CROWLEY: On the issue of home-grown terror, why now?
Because the figures that you used were 40 percent in the past two years have been Americans that have been indicted on various terrorism charges. Why is this -- this has been going on since the late '90s, really, these terrorist attacks. And now all of a sudden, it's home- grown. Why is that?
MCCONNELL: I have a view on that. And I will complement General Hayden. He led the CIA at a point in time when there was a very aggressive effort in the external threat. And there was a point in time when, if you were senior leadership in Al Qaida, it was -- your life was compounded pretty severely.
And so we made it very hard on them. And so they started to look for alternative ways, alternative methods of inflicting damage in the United States. So I think you've seen more actors emerge. There's been more use of the Internet for proselytizing and for radicalization.
So I think it's just the due-course evolution of this threat from a group that wants to change the world order. They see us as the enemy. CROWLEY: And that brings to us Awlaki, an American who we think is in Yemen, or heaven knows where he is, but he has a computer. And a lot of these home-grown terror links -- instances in the past couple of years have links back to him.
Is there any way to shut this man down?
HAYDEN: Well, obviously there are tools, and neither the admiral or I are in government now, so we're not privy to the specific decisions that have been made. But from my point of view, I see him as actively supporting an opposing armed enemy force. And therefore that entitles him to certain kinds of treatment from the United States. And I'm hopeful...
HAYDEN: I'm hopeful that our government's pursuing that kind of treatment.
CROWLEY: And I would assume -- I mean, is there any way -- I mean, I know that cyberspace is clearly something that you worry about and the threat on cyberspace. There is no way to stop him from -- I mean, basically what he's doing is inciting people to join up and do acts of terrorism against the United States.
MCCONNELL: It would be a challenge to stop it, but the point I would make, Candy, is once it's in the blogosphere, once it's there, you can't remove it.
CROWLEY: You can't, no. It stays there forever.
MCCONNELL: And so this individual has been very gifted at inspiring those who would be moved to radicalism, in the way he writes and how he talks and so on. So a lot of that information is there. And as you mentioned, some of those that have been guilty recently, when you look at their planning and their background, they had that information in their system.
CROWLEY: They had at least loose connections, and sometimes very direct connections with him.
HAYDEN: Yes. And as the admiral pointed out, I mean, where do you draw the line?
You've got the president responsible for the safety of the republic. You have constitutional rights, the legal structure set up. There is room to maneuver in there, but how much do you want to suppress convenience or commerce or privacy, in order to get that last margin of safety?
It's a very difficult question, and when one is in office -- as the admiral was suggesting, when one is in office that responsibility weighs pretty heavily. And so we've seen a powerful consistency between two administrations trying to deal with this problem.
But there are some things, I think, even the most ardent supporters of security would say, no, that would be too far.
CROWLEY: Who do you think is more dangerous at this point? If you had -- if you could wave your magic wand, who would you most like to get, Osama bin Laden or Awlaki?
HAYDEN: My view? Osama bin Laden.
MCCONNELL: I would agree. HAYDEN: Iconic figure. I would love to see Al Qaida go through a succession crisis. I would like to see that organization try to deal with how they replace number one.
There are splits within Al Qaida. One that was very prominent when we were in government was between the Egyptians in Al Qaida and all the other Arabs in Al Qaida. I would like to see them go to the mats to decide who the number one is. I think that would be very disruptive.
MCCONNELL: The two principal leaders -- one is Yemeni, Osama bin Laden, and the other is -- Zawahiri is Egyptian. So that split, if we were successful in getting Osama bin Laden, would cause them a leadership crisis. That would be...
CROWLEY: It would be more than just symbolism; you could cause a real disturbance inside Al Qaida?
CROWLEY: Let me ask you something I've always wanted to know. It seems to me that, when this first started with 9/11, it was, well, Osama bin Laden's on dialysis; he's going to die in the mountains; he's a very ill man. And here we are. So what -- was that bad intelligence or was he -- did he get a liver -- or a kidney transplant? I mean, what happened here?
HAYDEN: I'm not aware that there was any hard intelligence that said his life was in danger. I know there have been some popular stories like that, but certainly it was never so strong that we were counting on it.
CROWLEY: Right. We're always talking about how at first we couldn't imagine that people would fly planes into a building and then we couldn't imagine that someone would light his shoe on fire and try to blow up a plane. Then we didn't know people would sew explosives in their underwear.
What is out there now that we're not thinking about?
MCCONNELL: The thing I worry about would be chemical or biological. We know from the time we served inside on active duty that Al Qaida looked for weapons of mass destruction. They weren't necessarily successful, but they wanted to find nuclear, chemical, biological and so on.
The most likely event is going to be an explosion. They want death and destruction and blood and mayhem. That's what they strive for. But there are other things that they could consider. And of course, one of the things I'm identified with is worrying about someday they'll figure out how to cause us harm through a cyber attack, against what I call the soft underbelly of the -- of the country.
CROWLEY: And let me just -- I just want you to -- yes, I want you to chime in here, but how does that, sort of, briefly work? What's a cyber attack, for my mother or others sitting out there?
MCCONNELL: From a remote location, anywhere in the world, at the speed of light, which is milliseconds, someone could mount an attack into the United States to turn off the lights or to disrupt the money supply or disrupt transportation.
It could -- it could cause us a great deal of disruption and potential harm at the right time and the right way. So I just worry that, as a nation, we need to think about how do we increase our cyber security posture, and that's not only from the outside, bad people who are on the outside who want to get on the inside but it's insiders who would compromise our rules and our laws and our processes for administering business or government activity and so on.
HAYDEN: That whole discussion about this threat and that threat and the next threat doesn't mean we shouldn't try to play good defense, we should. But it underscores what we have to do is play offense. We just can't sit back in the gold mouth worrying about the next flavor of threat to come at us. We have to take the fight to them, make them spend most of their day worry being their survival rather than figuring out ways to threaten our survival.
CROWLEY: And by that you mean drone attacks, just keeping up, the aggressiveness you see in the Obama administration you give them high marks for?
HAYDEN: Actually I've seen over two administrations and I thank god every day for the continuity.
CROWLEY: Thank you for joining us. Again, happy holidays to both of you.
MCCONNELL: Thank you so much.
CROWLEY: Up next a check of today's top stories and getting to know the personal side of the politicians and government officials we have on this show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: If you were to be able to choose the person who would play you in the John McCain movie, who would play you?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: Umm, maybe Paul Newman.
CROWLEY: He can't do that anymore, sir. MCCAIN: Not anymore.
CROWLEY: You might have to pick someone else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Senator finally settled on Ed Norton. More of my favorites ahead.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there everybody. I'm T.J. Holmes live from the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. Got a big storm that's going to cause problems for people today -- New York, Tri state area, just one of the places bracing for blizzard like conditions. New York possibly could get a foot of snow. What you're seeing there is actually the salt they are going to use to try to get rid of some of that snow. Again, that's just one spot we're talking about. The storm already grounding hundreds of planes, American, Continental, United, Delta, you need to be checking with all of your airlines.
Let me check in with Reynolds Wolf right now with the latest on what the storm is up to -- Reynolds.
REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now it's beginning to gain a little bit more of its momentum, a little bit of strength at this time. Mainly a rain maker off the coast, but onshore for the mid-Atlantic it is all snow business for the time being. And some of the heaviest action will be coming down in parts of back into the Carolinas, eventually going to make its way into New England.
Not a whole lot of activity for yet in terms of heavy snowfall for New York. Boston getting a few snow showers. But we do have the watches, warnings and even blizzard warnings in effect for parts of the northeast. The fear to the biggest bulk of the snow, T.J. will actually develop later this afternoon, evening and into tomorrow.
So certainly as you mentioned a lot of delays not just a possibly but all a certainty at this time.
HOLMES: Appreciate you. And of course folks keep it right here with CNN for the latest on your weather.
One more thing I want to tell you about, eight Americans dead in Egypt after a tour bus they were in crashed in Egypt, another 19 Americans were injured. Right now the State Department working to identify those Americans who were killed and injured.
Right now I want to hand it back to State of the Union with Candy Crowley. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CROWLEY: If you are not a regular visitor to our Facebook page, we think you're missing something -- it's our online exclusive segment Getting to Know, interviews with our newsmakers done during the ad breaks in this show. Our goal is to get a few laughs and maybe a new take on these newsmakers you see every Sunday. Who are they really and what did they used to be?
NAPOLITANO: My first job was a babysitter, you know, little kids -- maybe that was my worst job.
CROWLEY: Running around the country going, Janet Napolitano used to be... NAPOLITANO: My babysitter...
CROWLEY: The Homeland Security secretary. There's probably some bragging points in that.
RICHARD TRUMKA, AFL-CIO PRESIDENT: I worked on a farm after school when I was in high school and I'd come back from football practice and after football practice or baseball practice I'd go to this farm and work there until 10:00 at night, shoveling manure and moving stuff.
SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) ILLINOIS: My first job really was working in a slaughterhouse in east St. Louis, Illinois. It was a great job, paid $3.65 an hour back in the early '60s. It was a hard job, a tough one. I learned what it was like to get up and go to work not only a tough, dirty job but dangerous job and I've remembered it to this day.
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, (I) CONNECTICUT: My uncle was an electrician and wired swimming pools and he hired me one summer basically to dig ditches for the wires to go. It was starting at the bottom but it was a good beginning.
CROWLEY: And he paid you.
LIEBERMAN: He paid me. He actually fired me one day because I grew a goatee and my Uncle Ben was conventional, he didn't like that. He said "shave it or don't come back." Of course I came back unshaven and he never - well, he did forgive me. I loved him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Sometimes it's the simplest questions that bring out the most surprising and often jarring answers. We ask in many forums but one of the questions always boils down to what has shaped your world view. We didn't know whether to be scared or sad when we talked to retired four star General and CIA director Michael Hayden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Having headed these two spy agencies, do you think you're more or less edgy than those of us who don't know anything?
HAYDEN: More edgy, undoubtedly. I used to get in the car every morning, they'd give me the president's brief and a bunch of other cables. I used to spend my first hour just kind of going through the last 24 hours events.
HAYDEN: It is hard to have faith in human nature or to be an optimist after that 60 minutes.
CROWLEY: You were also sometime ago a missionary in Honduras. What's your most enduring memory from that?
TIM KAINE, DNC CHAIRMAN: Candy, that was really the turning point in my life. I was at Harvard Law School and didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. And I took a year off and worked with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras.
The most powerful memory was the great people I met there who convinced me that a life of serving others was the way to be happy. Jim O'Leary (ph), this great Jesuit brother, father Patricio Wade (ph), who's still alive, working there, Father Ramon Peis (ph), these were people who at a young -- at an early time in my life really put me on a path I still feel like I'm on to try to, you know, be of service to others.
CROWLEY: What do you miss most about Pakistan?
HUSAIN HAQQANI, PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Well, I miss the warmth, the people. Pakistani culture is a lot less hectic than American culture. And because we have a culture of the extended family, friendships, clans, extended family, they all provide a level of affection and day-to-day interaction that you do not find in the sort of, you know, very businesslike environment of the United States.
CROWLEY: You were born in Karachi, Pakistan, spent most of your early childhood overseas. What is the one memory you hold from that?
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: I do remember that when we were in Ankara, Turkey, we used to go collect turtles in the Iranian embassy. And in those days, and this is a sign of the times, the fence for the Iranian embassy was about two or three feet high and there was just a trove of turtles in there. And we used to go in there and collect turtles, sometimes little ones, sometimes big ones.
CROWLEY: Army-Navy game is coming up, I'm told. Do you have any Army-Navy rituals that you do to try to get the Navy to win? Is it something you watch with interest or not?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: One year I went to the Navy locker room to try to motivate the team and they lost anyway, so they haven't asked me back.
CROWLEY: You are the son of a janitor.
GARY BAUER (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes.
CROWLEY: What's the enduring lesson you have today from him?
BAUER: Well, my father used to come home often late at night after working a couple shifts dirty, grimy, et cetera. And literally would go up to my room when I was a little boy and say, look at me, you know, you can do better than this, study, read, work hard, it's a great country.
And I never forgot those words. He was able to visit me briefly when I had an office in the West Wing about a year-and-a-half before he passed away, and I thanked him again for those enduring lessons.
(END VIDEOTAPE) CROWLEY: When we comes back, Christmas wishes, secret indulgences and comedic gold. We pull more goodies from our "Getting to Know" vault, next.
CROWLEY: 'Tis the holiday season, and when come of our more recent guests sat down for "Getting to Know," we wanted to visit the ghost of Christmas past. What did the senior senator from Indiana ask Santa for so many years ago? And did you ever wonder what a future chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff dreamt about as a kid? We did.
CROWLEY: When you were a kid, can you remember something that you really, really wanted for Christmas?
GEN. RICHARD MYERS (RET), FORMER JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Certainly. Bicycle. I remember the bicycle. I remember coming down Sunday morning and seeing that Schwinn bicycle with the horn that worked, the horn that was between the seat and the handlebars, yes, absolutely.
CROWLEY: So you got it. It's always nice when it has a happy ending.
MYERS: I don't think I got it the year I wanted it, but I got one, yes.
SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R), INDIANA: Most of my requests have been reasonably inexpensive. You know, he has not asked for airplanes or cars or what have you.
CROWLEY: Do you have someone that could have given you an airplane?
LUGAR: No. So it was not a reasonable request to begin with. (LAUGHTER)
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), MAJORITY WHIP: One of the things I definitely wanted was a Stan Musial baseball glove, and I got it. A Rawlings special. It was my prized possession as a kid.
CROWLEY: And we may have a health-conscious first lady in the White House, but clearly her message is not resonating in the upper echelons of political world. Here's just a sample of some favorite foods and none of it can be found in Mrs. Obama's garden.
HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: Ice cream pie.
ADM. THAD ALLEN, INCIDENT RESPONSE COMMANDER, GULF OIL SPILL: Probably anything Mexican.
KAINE: Kansas City barbecue.
NAPOLITANO: Spaghetti and meatballs. I love it.
MCCAIN: Enchiladas. You know, it's hard to get a good Mexican meal east of the Mississippi River.
AXELROD: Pizza, but I'll grab anything that's available. I eat for comfort, which is a big problem.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Ham biscuits.
CROWLEY: That's right. Ham biscuits. Google it, 1.5 million results. But with all of that comfort food, it's hard to remember that food can be the political kiss of death. We asked Gary Bauer about "Pancake-gate."
CROWLEY: We identified you as a former presidential candidate. I have to tell you I was in New Hampshire during the pancake incident when you fell off the...
BAUER: Everybody was in New Hampshire during that incident.
CROWLEY: Exactly. It's like, where were you when?
CROWLEY: When you look back at that, how do you look back at that?
BAUER: Oh my goodness, it's like it was -- I love pancakes. It was three years before I could eat another one. It was a very traumatic incident. But these are the sort of things in American politics that periodically happen. You know, somebody falls downstairs or flips a pancake.
I have to tell you, though, I caught it. People don't realize that. I got it on the way off the...
CROWLEY: So you fell off the stage...
CROWLEY: ... and disappeared from view, but caught the pancake.
BAUER: I did. I did. On occasion in the middle of the night, I still wake up with that view in my mind of falling off that stage.
(END VIDEOTAPE) CROWLEY: And finally, politicians are not known for short, snappy answers, but we got some, and they're the ones that made us laugh the most.
CROWLEY: What do they call you, your grandchildren?
MCCAIN: Old geezer.
MCCONNELL: Gosh. I don't have an official bucket list, I'm kind of a hard person to...
CROWLEY: Nothing you're dying to do?
MCCONNELL: Yes, well, I'm not anxious to make up my bucket list actually now that I think about it.
CROWLEY: You're scared of snakes, right?
GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: I'm kind of like Harrison Ford in that movie, "Snakes, why did it have to be snakes? I hate snakes."
CROWLEY: If I were to walk into your living room, what would I see?
GRAHAM: A bunch of crap on the floor.
(LAUGHTER) CROWLEY: Thank you so much. I like these getting-to-know-you, to be honest.
CROWLEY: Other glimpses into the lives of those who walk the corridors of power take a little longer, but the payoff is worth it. Who knew the full range of abilities of the number two Democrat in the Senate?
CROWLEY: We read in The New York Times that you kill rats with your bare hands. So I'd like you to explain that as well.
DURBIN: No. There was a big construction project on Capitol Hill near the house that I live in with George Miller and Chuck Schumer. And we were inundated by rats. I mean it. We bought these big rat traps, and my two stalwart roommates from California and New York wouldn't touch them. I hate rats. I ran into them when I used to work in a slaughterhouse back in the stockyards and I'd set the traps and my roommates would stand by, waiting, and unfortunately it turned out to be my job but it was a successful job.
CROWLEY: The things you learn just by asking. You can check out all our "Getting to Know" interviews on our Web site, cnn.com/sotu.
Thanks for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. We hope you continue to have a wonderful holiday weekend and we'll see you next week.