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State of the Union
Interview with John Boehner; Interview with John Brennan; Interview with Brian Schweitzer, Bob McDonnell
Aired April 29, 2012 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BOEHNER: Listen, if the election were today, I'd be very optimistic that we will hold our majority.
CROWLEY (voice-over): You're looking at the view from the best seat in the House. The question in 2012 is whether Speaker Boehner can keep it.
Also today, a year later, the death of bin Laden as a political talking point with the president's top counterterrorism adviser John Brennan.
And then the view from out there with two governors, Montana Democrat Brian Schweitzer and Virginia Republican Bob McDonnell.
Plus the President's Club with "Time" magazine's Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy and our exclusive guest, House Speaker John Boehner.
I'm Candy Crowley, and this is STATE OF THE UNION.
CROWLEY: Mr. Speaker --
CROWLEY (voice-over) -- primo view, great digs.
CROWLEY: Good to see you.
BOEHNER: Nice to see you.
CROWLEY: How many days have you thought, did I actually want this job?
BOEHNER: A lot.
CROWLEY (voice-over): Big headaches.
CROWLEY: Mr. Speaker, thank you for joining us. Let me start right out with the week's story, which is the student loans. The president has issued a veto threat and said if this, keeping the student loan rates low, comes to me with money -- paid for by money that comes out of the health care bill, I'm going to veto it. Your move. BOEHNER: This problem was created by Democrat Congress in 2007, and Democrats and Republicans for months have been working together to try to figure out a way to resolve the problem. And for the president to politicize this for his own re-election is picking a fight where one doesn't exist.
CROWLEY: So you're arguing about how to pay for it and he says if it comes paid for by money out of the health care bill, it's not going to happen.
BOEHNER: Well, then why did his budget director and the president put in their budget reductions in spending in this program? Why did the president sign into law the payroll tax cut that include $4 billion worth of reductions in this same program?
CROWLEY: Taking it out of the same fund that you want to take it out of.
BOEHNER: The same fund.
CROWLEY: Perhaps it's gone low enough. I mean let's just talk imagery here.
We have Nancy Pelosi out there saying, well, they want to protect the big oil companies because they want to pay for the student loan interest rates by closing loopholes in the oil industry, and we want to protect women's health. We want to prevent breast cancer and cervical cancer and that's what this fund is for.
BOEHNER: That is just nonsense. There's no women's health issue here.
CROWLEY: It's a preventive fund, isn't it?
BOEHNER: I'll guarantee you that they've not spent a dime out of this fund dealing with anything to do with women's health. Listen. What we're trying to do here is to deal with this problem in a responsible way.
Democrats and Republicans have been working together to get this resolved, and I believe that we will. If the Senate wants to do a different payfor, that will be up to them. But we'll have this issue resolved.
CROWLEY: But of all the places and all the trillions of dollars that the government spends for you all to zero in on something in the health care bill, is that not in itself political, because you all don't want this health care bill -- ?
BOEHNER: The president's own budget called for reductions in spending in this fund, in this prevention fund. So why would they have done that if it wasn't available to use as an offset to make sure the student loan interest rates don't go up?
CROWLEY: I want to ask you. There was a CBS poll this week, and it asked Americans, what's the best way to promote economic growth, 56 percent of all Americans said spend more and raise taxes. Only 37 percent said lower taxes and cut spending. Have you lost this war?
BOEHNER: No. The American people are still asking the question, where are the jobs. And it's clear that the president's economic policies have failed. And as a result, he's turned to the politics of envy and division.
The way we help the middle class is we get our economy going again. We develop more American oil and gas so that their gas prices, which have doubled under President Obama, are, again, reasonable. How do we do that? We stop the regulatory juggernaut that's going on downtown here in Washington.
Every agency of the federal government scaring every employer to dickens and they're afraid to invest.
CROWLEY: But would you agree that, politically, you're losing this battle?
BOEHNER: No. This election is going to be about the president's economic policies. They've failed. I think Mitt Romney has a tremendous record of economic growth, how to create jobs, and policies that the American people will support.
CROWLEY: I want to remind you of a couple things you've said about the president in the past several days. You seem tougher on the president now than you have in the past.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: This is the biggest job in the world. And I've never seen a president make it smaller.
The president checked out last Labor Day.
He lost his courage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Do you see yourself, vis-a-vis Mitt Romney's quest for the presidency, as the person that can really go after the president, because -- ?
BOEHNER: No. Listen. The president and I have a very good relationship.
CROWLEY: When did you last talk to him?
BOEHNER: And as a result, you know, I try to avoid personal attacks on the president. But let me say something. The president's getting some very bad advice from his campaign team, because he's diminishing the presidency by picking fake fights, going after straw men every day.
You know, we had the Buffett rule. It went on for months. Even the president admitted it was a gimmick.
And then we had the Rose Garden ceremony talking about the manipulation in the oil markets without one shred of evidence. And he has an entire administration to after speculation or manipulation in the oil markets.
And then they pick this student loan fight where there is no fight. And the point I've been trying to make here in the last couple of weeks is that the president's bigger than this. The presidency is important. America has big challenges, big fiscal challenges and we've got big challenges for our economy. And the president -- I'll be working with Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill to address the big issues that affect the American people.
CROWLEY: You don't see yourself as being tougher on him? I mean these are pretty -- I mean you said -- you were talking about his going -- his using the presidency to campaign. You called it pathetic. I mean these just seem stronger words to me and more like election year verbiage than previously.
BOEHNER: The president's been given bad advice. Someone needs to help him out, so I thought I would.
CROWLEY: OK. I'm sure he appreciates it.
I want to remind you of something you said to "Politico," I think, last January, which was I think it will be nearly impossible for the Democrats to win back the House in November. Now we have you saying maybe they've got a one in three chance. What's changed from January to now?
BOEHNER: Nothing. Listen, if the election were today, I'm very optimistic that we'll hold our majority. But my job is to make sure that, even under a worst-case scenario, we're able to hold on to the majority.
What I'm trying to do is to wake some people up and realize that we've got a challenge here and we've got 242 Republicans, incumbents, all up for election, 53 of them in pretty tough races.
CROWLEY: There are a number of ways -- the Democrats, by the way, have agreed with your statement. They do -- they have been talking bullishly about perhaps their chances of picking up the majority on the House side. Why do you think they've raised $10 million more, the DCCC, as opposed to the RNCC, the Democratic fundraising group for the White House?
BOEHNER: They clearly have some mail and phone program that's churning an awful lot of money.
CROWLEY: Why don't you?
BOEHNER: On a net basis we have many more in the bank than they do because we're not burning through the cash as quickly as they are. But it's raising money. It's a difficult challenge in a weak economy. I believe we'll have the resources necessary to fight a real campaign in November.
CROWLEY: What do you think of Mitt Romney? You both -- you come from such wildly different backgrounds that I find it fascinating. What do you think of him? BOEHNER: Listen, I've known the governor for 15 years. He's a very likable person. And, frankly, he has a very -- has had a very successful career, and I, frankly, I think the governor should be proud of his accomplishments. He and I are both striving for the same thing, to make sure that our kids and grandkids have an opportunity at the American dream like he and I have had.
Every American ought to have this chance. And I think he has a background where he can go out and talk about how to create jobs, how to turn this economy around and how to give the American people exactly what they want: more jobs.
CROWLEY: You know, he comes from a privileged background. You did not come from a privileged background. This is a time -- an economic time when people are hurting and have been hurting for quite some time.
Do you think that someone who is as wealthy as he is, who has had as much privilege as he is, has a hill to climb to overcome that?
BOEHNER: No. The American people don't want to vote for a loser. They don't want to vote for someone that hasn't been successful. I think Mitt Romney has an opportunity to show the American people that they, too, can succeed.
CROWLEY: Are you two in any way -- can we say working together on the election now? Have you talked to him?
BOEHNER: I have not -- I have not talked to him.
BOEHNER: But I would -- yes. I try to avoid to talking to all the candidates.
CROWLEY: But now he's the guy.
BOEHNER: Now he's the guy. He called and I called him back. We've kind of traded some voice mails. But I expect that I will soon.
CROWLEY: Who would you like him to pick as vice president?
BOEHNER: Whoever he's happy with.
CROWLEY: You see anybody around up here that you like?
BOEHNER: Well there are a lot of people.
CROWLEY: You know Portman, right? He's named a lot.
BOEHNER: Well, there are a lot of people that I like. But this is a -- a personal choice for Governor Romney. And I'm confident he'll have a running mate that will be helpful to the ticket.
CROWLEY: And if you had to say look, my number one -- what I really would look for in a V.P. if I were Mitt Romney, what is that quality?
BOEHNER: I think the number one quality is, are they capable of being president in the case of an emergency?
CROWLEY: Does that fit someone like say, Marco Rubio who is the newcomer...
BOEHNER: Fits a lot of -- fits a lot of people.
CROWLEY: Does it fit him?
BOEHNER: It fits Marco, it fits Senator Portman, Governor Daniels, I can go down a long list of people.
CROWLEY: I want to remind you of something that you said. This was November 2, 2010.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: The American people are demanding a new way forward in Washington. I'm here to tell you tonight that our new majority will prepare to do things differently. To take a new approach that hasn't been tried in Washington before by either party."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Do you think you've been a successful leader?
BOEHNER: I feel good about that. CROWLEY: Think you've done these things?
BOEHNER: No earmarks. Who can imagine. You know we've been through 16 months now with not one earmark. It's made my job a lot more difficult in terms of how to pass important legislation because there's no -- there's no grease. I got no -- no grease. So, no earmarks. A more open process. Allowing Democrats and Republicans to represent their constituency. To bring their ideas onto the floor. We're making real progress. One of my major goals is to rebuild this institution.
If we're serious about tackling America's big problems, you've got to have an institution strong enough to be able to do that. And having watched what's happened here in this institution over the 21 years that I've been here, we've made positive steps in the right direction. Both Democrats and Republicans are very happy about the progress we've made. They want more and so do I.
CROWLEY: Is this sausage being made? Because I don't think if you went and asked the average American whether they think it's been a great two years, they'd say yeah. They've been really doing great. In fact when you see the polling.
BOEHNER: Oh no I -- I see the polling and I understand the American people's angst. The economy is a -- a big problem. Our -- our national debt is a very big problem. So I understand their anxiety. But institutionally. My job is the speaker of the whole House. My job is to protect the institution and to strengthen the institution of the Congress. And while people don't like the Congress, I understand that. My job is to try to make it better.
CROWLEY: And you think you've done that?
BOEHNER: Making progress.
CROWLEY: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for joining us.
BOEHNER: Nice to see you.
CROWLEY: Nice to see you. Later, the question you never thought to ask. Why is the speaker of the House always so neatly pressed? But first, a moment of national unity transformed into a partisan punching bag.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaida.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: As the one-year anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden approaches, U.S. intelligence agencies put out an alert urging local law enforcement to be vigilant, and the Obama campaign put out a political ad suggesting Mitt Romney would not have gone after bin Laden, and full of fulsome praise for the president's decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON: He took the harder and the more honorable path. And the one that produced in my opinion the best result.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Seems like only four years ago that Hillary Clinton questioned then-candidate Obama's readiness for office with an ad using a picture of Osama bin Laden, and the Obama campaign accused her of playing the politics of fear. Now it's the president running a bin Laden political ad which the Romney campaign called sad, and President Obama's former rival John McCain called a cheap political attack ad and a pathetic political act of self-congratulation. Seems like only a year ago the news of bin Laden's death was greeted across the country and across party lines as justice. Up next, a man who was in the Situation Room the night bin Laden was killed, the president's top adviser on homeland security and counterterrorism, John Brennan.
CROWLEY: Joining me now, the president's adviser on homeland security and counterterrorism, John Brennan. Good morning and thanks for being here.
BRENNAN: Good morning, Candy.
CROWLEY: We're coming up on the one-year anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden, and I wanted to play you something that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said right about -- right after the death of bin Laden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I was convinced in my prior capacity and I'm convinced in this capacity that we're within reach of strategically defeating al Qaeda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Have we strategically defeated al Qaeda?
BRENNAN: We're on a path to al Qaeda's destruction. And the president is committed that we're not going to rest until al Qaeda is destroyed as an organization in the Afghan/Pak area as well as in other regions of the world. It's a murderous organization that has killed many Americans as well as many other nationalities over the course of the past decade and more.
And so we're determining to make sure that that organization is destroyed.
CROWLEY: So not yet, is the answer, they're not yet strategically destroyed.
BRENNAN: We still have work do.
CROWLEY: And so give it to me on a one to 10. If they were a number 10 threat now, have we -- how far have we reduced their ability to harm the U.S. or its citizens?
BRENNAN: We have reduced significantly their ability to care out attacks against the homeland as well as against U.S. persons and interests overseas. We've taken off the battlefield their founding leader and many other operatives that they have deployed in many parts of the world. We have taken apart their infrastructure in areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. We're determined to continue this effort in places like Yemen and Africa.
So their ability has been degraded significantly, and our defenses have improved significantly also over the past decade. So their ability to carry out an attack here in the United States now compared to 10 years ago is significantly diminished.
CROWLEY: How close have we come? How close are we to getting at the new leader al-Zawahiri?
BRENNAN: We're continuing to work with our regional partners, Pakistanis, Afghans, and others.
CROWLEY: Do we think that's where he is? Somewhere in Pakistan/Afghanistan?
BRENNAN: We believe he is in that region of the world, as well as other al Qaeda leaders that continue to burrow into areas of the FATA, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. That's why we're working very closely with our Pakistani partners. So we're not going to relent until we've brought them to justice one way or the other.
We demonstrated the ability to do that with bin Laden. And we are in constant consultation with our Pakistani counterterrorism partners on a regular basis about how we can do this as soon as possible.
CROWLEY: And he has to go. I mean, this is our number one target now?
BRENNAN: Absolutely. They have to go. It's an organization that's dedicated to murder and mayhem and we as well as other countries of the world are determined to make sure that that happens.
CROWLEY: What accounts for what a lot of people tell us is considerable activity on the part of the U.S. in Yemen? We know there have been drones, that there certainly is authorization for tomahawk missiles. Who are you trying -- I know that we got al-Awlaki not that long ago, I guess, and certainly he is gone.
But who are you looking for in Yemen? Why all that activity there?
BRENNAN: Well, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is located in Yemen, is involved in a very active insurgency against the Yemeni government. And we're working closely with the Yemeni government, their security, intelligence, and military forces, to ensure that that growth of al Qaeda in Yemen can be blunted.
At the same time they've demonstrated as well as the capability to try to carry out attacks against the homeland. You know Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab with the underwear bomber as well as the printer cartridge caper.
And so what we're trying to do is to make sure that they're not able to carry out those attacks. But we have to work very closely with the Yemenis. We're doing everything in Yemen in full cooperation with our Yemeni partners. We are going to do that.
CROWLEY: Are there specific people there you're targeting?
BRENNAN: There are leaders of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula that we are focusing on. And we're trying to make sure that they're brought to justice. Again, one way or the other, we're going to work closely with our Yemeni partners.
CROWLEY: Let me turn you to the Secret Service scandal that we've had because there's a lot of concern on Capitol Hill, as you know, that the national security as well as the security president is threatened by this sort of thing.
I was struck by something Congressman Elijah Cummings told me last week, which was, listen, we have told the bad guys, we have said to the terrorists there is a way to pierce this shield. Do you have concern about that?
BRENNAN: Well, first of all, the Secret Service has done a fantastic job over the course of many decades protecting the president, first families, as well as other protectees. This is something that we want to make sure is going to remain as strong as possible in the years ahead. Mark Sullivan, the director of the Secret Service, has taken, I think, very aggressive and speedy action to make sure that whatever happened in Cartagena or other areas is going to be addressed. He has put corrective actions in. He has taken very strong action against the individuals involved. So this is something that certainly the president is focused on, but again we have full confidence that Mark Sullivan is going to be able to make sure this doesn't happen again.
CROWLEY: But beyond that, was this a threat? Did this show terrorists, did this show bad guys there's a way you can pierce that shield around the president?
BRENNAN: By all accounts the security and the safety of the president...
CROWLEY: It was not at the time but now, like, oh.
BRENNAN: I think it's demonstrated to the world that we're going to take the corrective actions that are needed to make sure that there's not going to be an opportunity for terrorists or others to penetrate that security shield that surrounds the president.
CROWLEY: I'm not sure if you've seen it. But there's a new political ad out from the president's re-election team. It features former President Bill Clinton giving quite due praise to President Obama for making decision to go ahead and give the Navy SEALS permission to go in in a place where we thought Osama bin Laden was, where he thought, and it also suggests in that commercial that Mitt Romney might not have made that same decision, would not have had, if you will, the guts to do it.
Are you comfortable with taking that momentous point in history for the U.S., and a very sore point, and putting it into the political realm like that?
BRENNAN: First of all. I don't do politics. I'm not a Democrat. I'm not a Republican.
CROWLEY: That's why I asked.
BRENNAN: Yes. And what I know though is that President Obama made the decision that, in fact, brought bin Laden to justice. It was a tough decision. As we know, the evidence was not there as far as an ironclad case. A lot of it was circumstantial.
I just know that President Obama, when the time came for him to make a momentous decision like that, he took the action that did bring bin Laden to justice.
CROWLEY: But should it be in the political realm, do you think?
BRENNAN: I'm just going to be advising the president on a daily basis about what I think is in the best interests of the United States of safety and security.
CROWLEY: And finally, one of the promises the president made before he came into office, that he would closed down Guantanamo Bay Prison. That has not happened. Will it happen any time in the near future?
BRENNAN: We are determined to make sure that we're able to bring justice to those individuals in Guantanamo through either transfers to other countries, the areas where they....
BRENNAN: Well, you know, we've had some dealings with Congress. And Congress has not made this easy. And so what we're trying to do is to make sure we do this responsibly. The president said he is going to close it down. He has continued to be determined to do that. But we have to do it in a manner that does not put the safety of the American people in jeopardy, but also in a manner that we can bring justice to those people.
We'll work with the Congress. We'll continue to have ongoing discussions with them. And I'm hoping certainly one day that the people in Guantanamo will no longer be there.
CROWLEY: Can I take that as a "not anytime soon."
BRENNAN: You can take it that we're going to continue to work on it.
CROWLEY: All right. John Brennan, thank you so much for joining us this morning. The president's adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security, we appreciate it.
BRENNAN: Thank you very much, Candy.
CROWLEY: Thank you.
An outside-the-Beltway view on the economy. Gas prices and Obama V. Romney with Virginia Republican Governor Bob McDonnell and Montana Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One thing we can't afford to do right now is to go back to the very same policies that got us into this mess.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because he has failed, he will run a campaign of diversions and distractions and distortions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Joining me now, Montana Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer and Virginia Republican Governor Bob McDonnell, just discussing, both of you, in your final years as governor, that leaves you free to speak about anything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do anyway.
CROWLEY: That's right. I want to start out with something that a regional administrator for the EPA had to say that's gotten a lot of buzz this week. It was Region 6, which I think is too west for you and too south for you. But, nonetheless, this is from an EPA administrator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL ARMENDARIZ, EPA, DALLAS: (Inaudible) Mediterranean. They go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they find the first five guys they saw and they crucify him. And then, you know, that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Now he was talking about going after a couple of oil and gas companies and, you know, you crucify the first couple of ones and everybody else learns a lesson, is essentially what he was saying.
Do you have a problem with the way the EPA goes about its business? Is that, do you think, reflective of the EPA?
SCHWEITZER: Well, the energy companies need certainly more than anything. The last thing we need is to have some kind of a capricious system of who we're going to enforce regulation with and who we're not going to. So as long as we have certainty, we can function within those rules. We've got more drilling rigs right now in the United States than all of the rest of the world combined.
CROWLEY: So you don't think is -- this reflects reality?
SCHWEITZER: I think that was some silly talk.
CROWLEY: Governor, do you have problems with the EPA? MCDONNELL: Absolutely. In fact, some people in Virginia call it the Employment Prevention Agency because some of the overarching regulations and policies, particularly in a coal and gas state like Virginia, same with Montana, there -- it's just been overboard and the number of permits we seen in the last couple of years has been down dramatically.
And it's putting -- what this does is drives up the cost of the electricity. That's the impact on the American people. So this kind of rhetoric is very harmful because it really is translating into policy that we've seen in our states, and I'm sure Brian's seen it in Montana.
CROWLEY: Can I talk a little bit about gas prices because that's out there, at least in the political groundwater. Is it hurting folks in your state in a way that it's going to hurt the economy? SCHWEITZER: Well, gas prices aren't quite as high as they were in 2008, but they're too high. And that's why --
CROWLEY: What is about average in Montana, do you know? SCHWEITZER: About $3.81, $3.84, something like that.
CROWLEY: Sounds pretty good from around here. But it's beginning go into the family budget obviously.
SCHWEITZER: Absolutely. And of course, you know, we're producing more oil in the United States than any time in the last 12 years. We're importing less oil today than we have in 16 years. We're down to 45 percent.
We have oil and gas, we have coal and we have a wonderful natural supply of natural gas and that's why energy prices in the United States are cheaper than almost any place else in the world. $2 natural gas is the cheapest natural gas. Our electricity is some of the cheapest in the world, and that's why manufacturing is going back to the United States.
CROWLEY: But politically isn't it hurting the president at this point or do you see signs of that?
SCHWEITZER: Absolutely. If gasoline prices are high, it comes straight out of the pockets of consumers, and we'd like to have gas prices lower.
MCDONNELL: Everybody knows we need more energy independence in America. It's been a discussion since 9/11 and why we're in the Mideast (sic) and some of those things. I think this is a seminal issue in this election.
The president talks about all of the above. But I can tell you, in a coal and gas producing state, and in a nuclear state, where we've had -- actually going backwards on nuclear with the removal of the permitting at Yucca Mountain, new regulations on coal and natural gas, we're trying to drill off the coast for oil and natural gas in Virginia.
The president won't allow us to do that. No real help on the XL Pipeline. So we're going in the wrong direction. I think that's why Mitt Romney's got some very good ideas about how we get energy independence going in America.
CROWLEY: Let me pick up on the Keystone pipeline, because I know it 's something you support, the president may support it in the future, has supported parts of it. But there's, you know, the fact of the matter is this is a pipeline that would move energy or oil and gas for oil from Canada down to the Gulf of Mexico. And the president so far has put the brakes on its completion.
SCHWEITZER: Well, let me add to that. Actually it would also move Montana oil. I negotiated with TransCanada when we gave them a permit that they would build 100 million-dollar on-ramps so that Montana oil --
(CROSSTALK) CROWLEY: (Inaudible) the president, right, for stopping this?
SCHWEITZER: Well, actually pipelines are permitted state by state. Montana, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, we've all permitted it. But in Nebraska, they said, no, not so fast. So TransCanada doesn't even have a route yet.
You can't have an application approved -- Bob knows that, because he approves pipelines in his own state -- until you have a route. As soon as Nebraska allows a right of route across Nebraska, TransCanada can make a completed application and then the president and the State Department need to act.
CROWLEY: And but -- so you're not upset. You think this is not politics at play here? That --
SCHWEITZER: Well, yes, of course, Congress is yakking about it, but, frankly, the State Department only has a role because it crosses an international border, Montana and Alberta. If there's no international border, it's only states. As soon as Nebraska acts, then TransCanada can get a full application before the State Department and then they need to act.
CROWLEY: Governor, let me move you all on to some issues key in your state. You have a voter ID law that is either near or sitting on your desk. You had criticized it in its current form, saying that you really worried it would disenfranchise some people who otherwise would have votes that counted. Are you going to sign that or not?
MCDONNELL: I'm still working through it. I mean, we're entitled to one man, one vote. Not two votes, but not no votes, and I'm trying to make sure that the bill I got back strikes that proper balance with some of the things (inaudible) --
CROWLEY: You know what's in it, though, and you have been opposed -- you didn't -- you wanted to soften it a bit, make it slightly easier.
MCDONNELL: I wanted to make it easier to have a signature comparison --
MCDONNELL: -- as opposed to making a voter come back. So I'm meeting with our state board of elections, with the attorney general, to find out whether or not this -- whether or not we can make --
CROWLEY: Democrats say it would disenfranchise their voters.
MCDONNELL: I don't think it -- I don't think it would. It would create an additional burden to have to come back and be able to show subsequent identity. We've had a number of cases of voter fraud. Most of them in the registration stage, and we want to make sure we have good clean elections. That's a fundamental of democracy. CROWLEY: Sure. Leaning one way or the other? You know what's in this.
MCDONNELL: I'll let you know in a couple of week. I'm still looking at it.
CROWLEY: OK. Come back in a couple of weeks.
I want to read you something, Governor Schweitzer, that you said -- this is from October 2006. Nothing goes away, as you know.
If he -- meaning Mitt Romney -- gets the nomination I might support him.
Well, it's 2012, six years later, he's on his way to getting the nomination. Would you support Governor Romney?
SCHWEITZER: No, I'm not supporting him. He's a friend of mine and we traveled together in Iraq and Afghanistan and when you're in a war zone and you travel with somebody, you learn a lot about their family, a lot about their business, a lot about their values. But, of course, I think the whole Republican party has taken a right turn.
This is far right of where Reagan was, and so I'm not supporting him. I think he's a good man and I think he has some good ideas but I'm supporting Barack Obama.
MCDONNELL: It's his last year in office. He could have done it. He could have made news here.
CROWLEY: He could absolutely. Absolutely, especially since you liked him.
MCDONNELL: I'm supporting Mitt Romney because he's the best guy for America right now.
CROWLEY: I want to ask you -- I want to play you something that -- you both were there, I think, last night at the White House correspondents' dinner, as was i. And something Jimmy Kimmel had to say. There's always truth in humor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: Mr. President do you remember when the country rallied around you in hopes of a better tomorrow? That was hilarious.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: So a little truth in that. Is the president -- did -- were expectations and hopes so high that he's now suffering from that in the polls?
SCHWEITZER: We're actually coming back from the brink. We've had 25 consecutive months of positive job creation not in the public sector but in the private sector. So we're on the mend.
And the good news -- and we need to get this out as leaders. We need to tell the world that very have the most innovative work force, we have the least expensive energy and manufacturing is actually starting to come back to the United States for the first time in 20 years. That's a good sign.
CROWLEY: Governor, I can't go without asking you. Of course, your name comes up in the whole VP list thing and you're going to be out of a job at the end of this year anyway.
MCDONNELL: Two years.
CROWLEY: Two years, sorry.
MCDONNELL: He's out. I'm still there.
CROWLEY: That's right. You know, you signed a bill that required a noninvasive ultrasound for anyone that would get an abortion. Do you think that hurts you on that VP list?
MCDONNELL: Look, that's completely up to Mitt Romney. I'm not worried about that.
What I'm worried about, though, is the future of the country. You know, 8.2 percent unemployment right now for 38 consecutive months, a crushing $15.5 trillion national debt, I want to do everything I can to make sure we preserve the American dream for my kids, his grandkids and the rest of America. That's really what's at stake.
And I think this hope and change message we saw two years ago, it's now recession and division. I think this is going to be a tough campaign, but I think people want the positive things about America. We are -- Brian's right. Some of the most entrepreneurial people in the history of the world. We've just got do better to bring out their best and Mitt Romney is the guy to do it. CROWLEY: Governor McDonnell, Governor Schweitzer, no agreement here, but great discussion. Thanks so much.
MCDONNELL: Thanks, Candy. Good to be back. Brian.
SCHWEITZER: Good to be with you, Bob.
CROWLEY: Ever wonder what ex-presidents say about each other when the cameras are off? Find out why one member of the presidents' club might not be fitting in so well.
And later, getting to know House Speaker John Boehner, how far is he willing to go to get the job done right?
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CROWLEY: Time for a check on today's top stories. One person is dead, 16 others hospitalized after a sports bar tent collapsed during a storm in St. Louis. St. Louis Cardinals baseball had gathered at the bar's tent to celebrate the team's victory yesterday. A source tells CNN that Republican presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich will end his White House run this Wednesday. The former House speaker is expected to express his support for the presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney. Gingrich won the South Carolina and Georgia Republican primaries.
There's a newly revealed account of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Nina Rhodes-Hughes, she's on the left in this picture, was a witness to the murder and tells CNN there was a second shooter on the night that Kennedy was fatally wounded at a Los Angeles hotel in 1968. A federal court is considering Rhodes-Hughes story as part of a challenge to the conviction of Sirhan Sirhan who was sentenced to life in prison as the lone killer of Kennedy. And check this out, Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown nailed a half-court shot while visiting a community center in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.
He definitely won over the young crowd of onlookers and perhaps a good omen for what's expected to be a tough reelection campaign for the Republican who won Ted Kennedy's old seat.
CROWLEY: Those are top your stories.
Next, a behind-the-scenes look at the president's club, the most exclusive club in America.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Now some have said I blame too many problems on my predecessor. But let's not forget that's a practice that was initiated by George W. Bush.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: That's President Obama getting in some laughs at last night's White House Correspondents Dinner. Mr. Obama and Bush are part of an exclusive and mostly cordial club, a fraternity explored in the New York Times bestseller, "The Presidents Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity."
Joining me now are the book's co-authors, Time magazine's Washington bureau chief Michael Duffy and deputy managing editor Nancy Gibbs.
Thank you both so much. Let me start out with the relationship between former President Bush and current President Obama. What did you find out about that?
GIBBS: Well, you know, the interesting thing is that from the minute that Obama was elected, President Bush made it clear that he wanted to help with the transition. He actually gathered the whole club together for sort of a member initiation, all the living presidents -- President Bush, Carter, Clinton, President-elect Obama at the White House. And at that time, President Bush said, you know, we all want you to succeed. This is something we saw again and again and again in all the presidents we looked at, that they want to help the next guy. And after that, he really has worked very hard not to make life more difficult for President Obama.
CROWLEY: And yet Michael, there is still -- I mean, these guys are on different sides of issues. There's long-standing sort of friction between them and their opponents (ph) because they ran against each other. There's this Clinton ad out now, former President Clinton puts out this ad praising President Obama for how, you know, he had the courage to go after Osama bin Laden and say, OK, let's go, it's a mission go, and then questioning Mitt Romney as to whether he would have made the same decision. So how does that fit into the presidents club?
DUFFY: You've been following the twisting tale between Barack Obama and Bill Clinton over the last four or five years. This is a great irony because Clinton is now the star of President Obama's campaign videos, which is just a rich irony given the fact that they tangled like ferrets in 2008.
And I guess what it's interesting, is we see over and over, no matter the generation, no matter the decade, even people who don't agree find some way to work together, and sometimes go back to being rivals after that. But for now, those two men are in alignment.
CROWLEY: I think what's also interesting about this ad is that first of all, when he was president or afterwards, Bill Clinton was criticized for not going after Osama bin Laden when people thought he might have had a chance. And by the way, his wife ran an ad against then candidate Obama saying he wasn't ready, using the image of Obama -- I mean, of Osama bin Laden -- and the Obama campaign objected. So there's lots of situational --
DUFFY: And yet, when the raid happened, the first two people President Obama called, were, in this order, George Walker Bush and then Bill Clinton, because he knew at some level both men had tried to actually kill bin Laden and had been unable to do it.
CROWLEY: That's a measure of respect.
DUFFY: And I also think the job continued.
DUFFY: I mean, you started it, I'm finishing.
Let me ask you. I was fascinated by this in your book. And I guess these presidents get together for many reasons or find bonding ways, and I love this on the role of Jimmy Carter.
You write in the book, "Carter gave the club a great gift, something for all the others to complain about. When nothing else seemed to unite its members, the club often bonded over what an annoying cuss Carter could be."
GIBBS: It's true, and yet it also -- you know, the other side of that is he could also be very valuable to them. There are things that presidents can do for other presidents uniquely, including some very sensitive, diplomatic missions that President Clinton, the first President Bush sent Carter on, so he could be very useful. He just had this habit of going off script, which could be very annoying to them. And they would share with each other their annoyance.
DUFFY: President Obama sent Carter to North Korea in 2010. He was so concerned about Carter going off that script that he made him sign, I think, a 12-point contract before he left, including one point which was to never talk about the press about the whole thing. Which then he did tell us about.
CROWLEY: And he signed it, which I think is even more amazing.
DUFFY: He signed it.
CROWLEY: I want to ask you about a couple of things that are happening now. I was particularly struck by Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who ran for president and had to back out because she had no support and ran out of money. And she had this to say on Wolf Blitzer's show Thursday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, R-MINN.: I have said all along that I will be backing our party's nominee, and I will happily do that.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: When?
BACHMANN: Well, what I'm doing is working behind the scenes, bringing together all factions of our party. As the line says in "The Wizard of Oz" all in good time, my pretty. It will happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP) (LAUGHTER)
CROWLEY: Meaning she will endorse him eventually? I'm just wondering if you have got some take on what the hesitation is here? What is she -- what's she going for?
GIBBS: You know, I don't know, a better speaking gig at the convention? It's hard to say. But we have -- I mean, it has been sort of one of these tragic things about the slow and half-hearted endorsements that Governor Romney has been getting.
Even Speaker Boehner just now with you, saying he is a very likable guy. I keep waiting for one of them to say he will be a great president. But we get, "He is a very likable guy."
DUFFY: Or "We trade phone messages."
GIBSON: "We haven't spoken -- "
DUFFY: "We haven't spoken with him." He told you that they traded email messages -- no, phone messages.
CROWLEY: Phone messages back and forth. DUFFY: That's right.
CROWLEY: Yes. And honestly, he is now -- is not Romney now the head of the Republican Party? Should this not be the time that they're gathering around him -- and, by the way, isn't some -- aren't some of the fights that they're going to have on Capitol Hill going to reflect on his campaign and vice versa?
DUFFY: Normally the Republican Party is excellent at coalescing at this stage around their guy, but this is not a normal time for the Republican Party. It is because of people like all the folks who ran in this campaign, still very fractured, still very divided, and even in Boehner's remarks, you could hear when he talked to you -- you could hear a kind of subtext of the problems the GOP was having.
He talked in there about making government -- you know, he complained that President Obama's government was too small.
GIBSON: (Inaudible) too small and how his -- he told you what he was most proud of was rebuilding the institution. Well, I think there are a lot of members of his caucus who don't think that a bigger, more effective government is really what they're looking for.
CROWLEY: A lot of members of the public who don't think that they've actually rebuilt anything.
But having said that, how vital is it for these folks to come together? It's almost impossible for Mitt Romney to put together a winning campaign unless --
DUFFY: I think when it comes to anyone in the House, Republican leadership like Boehner or even Ms. Bachmann, there's a -- they could emerge as Barack Obama's best ally in this campaign if they continue to do the kind of legislating they did in the last year.
So I suspect that there may be a distance, both from the Washington to Mitt Romney as the -- as from Romney to Washington.
CROWLEY: Mike Duffy, Nancy Gibbs, the book, you guys, is "The Presidents Club," and it is a great book. Pick it up. It's just a -- it's a fun read in addition to you learn a lot of stuff. Thank you both so much.
DUFFY: Thank you, Candy.
GIBSON: Thank you, Candy.
CROWLEY: In our "Getting to Know" session with House Speaker Boehner, we wanted to know the inspiration behind his style.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: You have been compared to the "Mad Men" character Don Draper. Dick Armey called you Dean Martin without a piano.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CROWLEY: House Speaker John Boehner is a multi-tasker, running the House, getting Republicans re-elected, going toe-to-toe with the president. With so much on his plate, we were surprised to learn about his attention to wardrobe detail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: You are known as one of the best-dressed men in Congress. I don't know if you knew that. You have been compared to the "Mad Men" character Don Draper. Dick Armey called you Dean Martin without a piano. So we want to know where you get your sartorial advice.
BOEHNER: Well, mostly it's just me. I try to keep it simple, and I try to keep it neat and clean, and I take great pride in the fact that I wash and iron my own shirts. The cleaners just ruin them, and about 15 years ago I got tired of broken buttons and white shirts that were grayish, and so I can tell you how to wash shirts well, and I can talk to you about the best iron in the world.
CROWLEY: Wow. You spent your time learning to iron shirts, I spent my time trying not to iron shirts.
BOEHNER: I understand. I understand.
CROWLEY: The other way around. Is it peaceful for you? Is it therapeutic? I can't imagine doing it. You just want it done right.
BOEHNER: I want it done right. It's a pain, but when I put my shirt on, I know it's done right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: You can see the entire "Getting to Know" interview with Speaker Boehner, as well as today's other interviews, some analysis and web exclusives at our website, cnn.com/sotu. Thank you so much for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" is next for our viewers here in the United States.