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State of the Union

Interview with Susan Collins; Interview with Thomas Pickering; Interview with Tammy Duckworth, Tulsi Gabbard

Aired May 12, 2013 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: Double trouble for the administration, Benghazi and the IRS.


CROWLEY (voice-over): Today, the IRS admits its agents targeted Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think you accidentally focus on the Tea Party, but it wouldn't be the first time the IRS has been used for political purposes.

CROWLEY: Our Sunday exclusive with Republican, Susan Collins, of Maine on the IRS and Benghazi.

JOHN BOEHNER, (R-OH) HOUSE SPEAKER: The IRS has done everything possible to block access to the information that would outline the truth.

CROWLEY: Before, during, and after the attack. Former ambassador, Thomas Pickering, was part of the panel that looked into it all. He joins us with his take on this week's hearings.

Then, a shocking Pentagon report estimating more than 25,000 sexual assaults are committed every year in the military.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not only a crime against a victim, this is a betrayal to your unit.

CROWLEY: The problem and the fix with two Iraq war veterans now serving On Capitol Hill, Hawaii's Tulsi Gabbard and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.

Then, our political panel on Tea Parties and the IRS, Republicans and Benghazi, Rand Paul and Hillary Clinton.

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


CROWLEY (on-camera): Joining me now, senator Susan Collins of Maine. Thank you, Senator Collins, for being here. Here's what we know so far about the IRS. We will have an inspector general's report sometime next week. We were told in that report will show an IRS official has said, in fact, yes, there was extra scrutiny or singling out of groups with the words Tea Party or patriot in it.

As far back as 2011, we are told, senior officials knew this at the IRS and didn't tell Congress. We are also told by the director of these tax exempt organizations inside the IRS that this was done as a shortcut and not out of, quote, "political bias." Is this passing the smell test for you?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R) MAINE: Not at all. This is truly outrageous. And it contributes to the profound distrust that the American people have in government. It is absolutely chilling that the IRS was singling out conservative groups for extra review. And I think that it's very disappointing that the president hasn't personally condemned this and spoken out.

His spokesman has said it should be investigated, but the president needs to make crystal clear that this is totally unacceptable in America.

CROWLEY: The White House did put out a thing saying this doesn't meet the standards, if it doesn't meet the standards required of government officials would be backed and should be taken. They blame a small group of agents, but the fact remains that any time you mention the IRS -- and by the way, Tea Party groups complained about this at the time. And we should just explain to our viewers that groups get tax exempt status as sort of social interest groups.

If they're involved in politics, they don't get the same tax exempt status and that's what this group does -- that's what this part of the IRS does. And in sort of reiterating what you said "The Washington Post" editorial said, it's appalling to learn Friday that the IRS had improperly targeted conservative groups for scrutiny.

It was almost as disturbing that President Obama and treasury secretary, Jack Lew, have not personally apologized to the American people and promised a full investigation. Public apology needed here?

COLLINS: Absolutely. And I just don't buy that this was a couple rogue IRS employees. After all, groups with progressive in their names were not targeted similarly. There's evidence that higher level supervisors were aware of this. And the IRS was not forthcoming in telling Congress about the problem.

If it had been just a small group of employees, then you would think that the high level IRS supervisors would have rushed to make this public, fired the employees involved, and apologize to the American people and informed Congress. None of that happened in a timely way.

CROWLEY: One of the things we should mention is that the head of the IRS did come up at some point, I believe, last year or the year before, and said, no, we are not targeting folks for political reasons ever. He was a Bush-appointee, so that does mix up the politics a bit. And we should say, there's no evidence linking him to knowing about this.

We only know that senior officials according to some of what we've seen about this inspector general, we only know that senior officials and not necessarily that director at the time.

COLLINS: That's true, but it's evident that some senior officials did know about it and known about it for some time. The allegations go back at least two years. So, that is very troubling.

CROWLEY: Let me turn you to Boston and something Senator Joe Lieberman who you've worked with very closely to put together the Homeland Security Department and try to put together an entire structure that, in fact, connected dots. And this is something that he said, I think, testifying on Capitol Hill recently about Boston.


JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, (I) FORMER U.S. SENATOR: From what I've learned over the years about home-grown Islamist terrorism, I believe that though it would not have been easy, it was possible to have prevented the terrorist attacks in Boston.


CROWLEY: Do you think it was possible to have prevented the terrorist attacks?

COLLINS: It's very difficult to know. I worked very closely with Joe Lieberman and have enormous respect for his views. And we held a series of hearings on the growing threat of home-grown terrorists. I believe that better information sharing might have allowed us to prevent this attack.

First of all, I don't think there was aggressive enough follow-up when the Russians first alerted the FBI to the fact that these two brothers were becoming increasingly radicalized. Now, we don't get tips from the Russians every day. This isn't like the Canadians or the Brits.

CROWLEY: Flags should have gone up you think?

COLLINS: Absolutely. A huge one.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about something one of your colleagues, Senator Inhofe, said on the radio lately. He was talking about not just about what happened in Benghazi now, but about the e-mails afterwards and the changing of the talking points. As you know, there was a hearing on the House side about Benghazi. Here's what Senator Inhofe had to say.


SEN. JAMES INHOFE, (R) OKLAHOMA: People may be starting to use the I-word before too long.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. The I-word meaning impeachment?

INHOFE: Yes. This is clearly an orchestrated cover-up.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CROWLEY: That's pretty big. Do you see something in Benghazi either in the handling before, during, or after with the talking points that were scrubbed that the i-word, the impeachment word should come up?

COLLINS: I don't at this point I will say. But that doesn't mean that these allegations aren't serious. Joe Lieberman and I did a preliminary investigation into the events into the attacks on Benghazi last fall. And we had a career CIA agent who was the woman who first drafted the very first talking points tell us that there was no national security reason for the line about the links to al Qaeda to have been dropped from the talking points. So, clearly, politics was at play here.

CROWLEY: And if that is so, is it not a cover-up on a scale of -- I mean, why do you think they would do this? Do you think it was to help the president get elected?

COLLINS: I believe that because we were in the midst of the final weeks of a very contentious presidential re-election campaign, that one of the themes of this administration was that Libya was a success, that the military invention had produced a stable pro-United States country that was moving toward Democracy and that al Qaeda was on the run. And what happened in Benghazi proved that neither of those narratives was accurate.

CROWLEY: As you know, there have been those Ambassador Pickering among others who said I learned nothing new in the hearings this week. Did you learn anything new about Benghazi? And what don't you know you want to know?

COLLINS: I did learn something new. There were further iterations that changes in the talking points than I've been aware of. In addition, the whole discussion of whether or not help could have been sent in time is a discussion that Joe Lieberman and I had, but which congressman Issa took to a new and important level.

I think it's extraordinary that the head of AFRICOM, General Hamm, told our committee that he had no idea how many Americans were even in Benghazi and would need to be evacuated if something happened even though he is the person who would be in charge of the evacuation. And we have to remember that there were many hours between the first attack and the latter attack.

I don't think we could have gotten help there in time to save the ambassador and the information officer, but I do believe that help could have been sent in time to prevent the further deaths. And indeed, there was a plane from Tripoli of very brave security officers who are coming to Benghazi who were held up by the Libyans for three hours at the airport. And we still don't have a good answer as to why.

CROWLEY: So, more investigation as far as your concerned is needed?

COLLINS: Absolutely. CROWLEY: Sen. Susan Collins, thanks for joining us.

COLLINS: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Up next, while Republicans focused on Hillary Clinton in the Benghazi hearings, an accountability review board that investigated the attack declined to single out the former secretary of state for what went wrong. The man who led that inquiry, Ambassador Thomas Pickering, is next. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DARRELL ISSA, (R) CHMN., OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM CMTE.: We've seen specific parts of the ARB that are either incomplete or, in fact, are just wrong. We've also heard live testimony that the ARB did not assign blame above, if you will, mid- level management.


CROWLEY: Joining me now, Ambassador Thomas Pickering, chair of the state department's accountability review board on the Benghazi terror attacks. Ambassador, thank you so much for joining us.


CROWLEY: It's been a busy week on a topic that you have delved into in some depth. So, I want to ask you first about your reaction to the criticism that the accountability review board has had. Chairman Issa said that it was either incomplete or, in fact, just wrong. Can you respond to that first?

PICKERING: Well, I'm waiting to see whether there's any there there, Candy. I've looked at it very carefully. I've listened to the hearings. A number of the criticisms were not based on the actual happenings. We did, of course, see the secretary. We saw Secretary Byrnes. We saw secretary -- Deputy Secretary Nides. We interviewed Pat Kennedy. So, a number of the questions they raised, were we capable and were we complete?

And I believe that we still were. I'm kind of waiting to hear the number of things that Greg Hicks raised. We interviewed Greg, and I admire Greg. He did a very difficult job under very tough circumstances. We're certainly answered by himself, were the airplanes there? Were they ready? Could they come? Could they be there in time?

And he already indicated that the defense attache told him that was not possible. So, I've watched this very carefully. Of course, any report is subject to being reviewed, to being criticized and all the rest. I welcome that, but I don't yet see it.

CROWLEY: And the main question -- I want to play something for you. And this was Greg Hicks, former deputy chief of mission in Libya. And he was asked about could help have been sent. He mentioned this group that was in the embassy in Libya that wanted to go to the mission in Benghazi. Here's the question. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VOICE OF REP. JASON CHAFFETZ, (R) UTAH: How did the personnel react at being told to stand down?

GREGORY HICKS, FOREIGN SERVICE OFFICER: They were furious. I can only say -- well, I will quote Lt. Col. Gibson. He said, "this is the first time in my career that a diplomat has more (EXPLETIVE DELETED) than somebody in the military."


CROWLEY: So, here's the bottom line question, were there military assets anywhere that could have saved these men, because the implication here is that there was, that possibly lives did not need to be lost had the military acted more quickly?

PICKERING: That group would have arrived after everybody had left the Benghazi airport, but a few. The airport was secured. There were 80 according to the testimony. Libyan armored -- armed vehicles and people there securing the airport, so there was no doubt about that.

CROWLEY: The airport in Benghazi?

PICKERING: The airport in Benghazi, which was the extensible reason for their going. They were actually extremely useful and helping to treating the wounded when they arrived in Tripoli.

CROWLEY: So, the main question --


CROWLEY: Candy, we looked at that very thoroughly. Mike Mullen, who was part of this report and indeed worked very closely with all of us and shared many of the responsibilities directly with me, made it very clear that his view as a former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff that there were nothing within range that could have made a difference.

CROWLEY: But of course, the military would have been responsible for that, but the military opinion is nobody could have gone in there.

PICKERING: That's correct. And Gen. Dempsey, his successor repeated that in hearings.

CROWLEY: They both -- there was a question about whether they could do a flyover just to scramble some of these.

PICKERING: The closest flyover possibility was identified at Aviano (ph) in Northern Italy 1,600 miles away. That was given a two to three-hour possibility. But it also would require aircraft tankers to refuel those aircraft, and they were not available.

CROWLEY: You now, the other complaint was that this report of yours -- accountability review board, only went so far. You did heavily criticize the state department for not responding to what had been obvious threats and obviously unsettled condition, particularly, in Benghazi but in Libya as a whole, but only went so far as the assistant secretary that the buck really stops with secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. Is that not true? And why didn't you discuss this with her?

PICKERING: The buck stopped. She'd already made it clear that the buck stopped with her. We were interested in where the decisions were made. And she did not make the security decisions that we felt --

CROWLEY: Was that a problem, do you think?

PICKERING: No, not at all. I think that it was behind the legislation. We looked in to what the Congress was saying at the time it passed the legislation to set up the process. And they said it is traditional for heads of agencies to take responsibility then nobody goes down and finds where the decisions were made. And that's what we'd like to see. And we'd like to have people held responsible for their performance in those decisions.

CROWLEY: And what do you make of the back and forth on the talking points which we know were scrubbed of any kind of mention of terror and certainly when U.N. Secretary Rice came on this show and four others that it was all about this tape and that's what they thought at the time. What do you make of that?

PICKERING: Candy, that was not in our mandate. We were looking into security, security warnings, security capacity, those kinds of things. And so, I have been very clear that since it wasn't our mandate, I didn't do the investigation. And I'm not prepared or able to give you a thought on that.

CROWLEY: Did you learn anything new in the hearings this week that you did not know at the accountability review board?

PICKERING: I could say yes, because I'm always interested in seeing what's new. I honestly did not.

CROWLEY: So, as far as you are concerned, do you think Benghazi has been investigated and that information put out to the public as thoroughly as possible?

PICKERING: No, because the FBI is responsible for the criminal investigation. And that's ongoing. And I think you have to separate the two. Ours was securities. Their is criminal. That is yet to be done. We may find out much more. They're obviously interested in who perpetrated this, for what reasons? Were they criminally culpable under U.S. law? Those kinds of things, yes.

CROWLEY: OK. Ambassador Pickering, thank you for coming this morning. We appreciate it.

CROWLEY: Up next, stunning and disturbing numbers of sexual assaults in the U.S. military.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Bottom line is, I have no tolerance for this. I have communicated this to the secretary of defense.



CROWLEY: A new report on sexual assaults in the military paints such an alarming picture, even the secretary of defense seems worried about his department's ability to fix it.


CHUCK HAGEL, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: This department may be nearing a stage where the frequency of this crime and the perception that there is tolerance of it could very well undermine our ability to effectively carry out the mission.


CROWLEY: The troubling development is sparking outrage and a flurry of proposed legislative fixes on Capitol Hill, including one that would take sexual assault complaints outside the chain of command, which is a fundamental feature of military life. The idea is opposed by both the Pentagon and some leading voices on Capitol Hill, but it sounds about right to our next guests, two women who are members of Congress and war veterans.

Tammy Duckworth deployed to Iraq in 2004, a member of the Illinois National Guard, she was one of the first women in the army to fly combat missions. She lost both legs when the Blackhawk helicopter she co-piloted was hit by a rocket propelled grenade.

Tulsi Gabbard was serving in Hawaii's National Guard when she was deployed to Iraq with the medical unit handling logistics and operations for 3,000 troops. Captain Gabbard and Lt. Col. Duckworth were both elected to Congress last November. They continue to serve in their National Guard units.

Congresswomen Gabbard and Duckworth on the culture, the reasons, and the remedies to stop military assaults, next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... preventing sexual assault and taking disciplinary actions when it happens seems to me is a very high priority for us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The number of sexual assaults in the military is unacceptable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a threat to the safety and welfare of our people and the health, reputation and trust of this institution.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There will be accountability. If people have engaged in this behavior, they should be prosecuted.


CROWLEY: Joining me are two congresswomen who are also Iraq war veterans, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois. Congresswomen, thank you so much for joining us.


CROWLEY: You heard as we came into this section from our military leaders for more than a decade this has been a problem. And it is only increasing. We saw where reported rapes are up, the number of people who don't report them but say they have been at least the victims of unwanted sexual contact. What's wrong here?

DUCKWORTH: It's absolutely unacceptable, Candy. I want the military to be a place where women can succeed and thrive the way I was able to. And the military leadership at this point has shown that they have not been capable of fixing this problem.

CROWLEY: Not only that, but not been capable for a decade plus.

GABBARD: Absolutely.

CROWLEY: So there's no more excuses.

GABBARD: There is no excuses. It's not enough just to say this is not something we'll stand for, we'll hold these people accountable unless you're providing a system and process to actually do that. And I think there are two things we really need to look at. What is the core reason why this hasn't really gotten better over the years? One being we have to make sure it's a victim-centered response from the moment that the victim makes that report all the way through to the point where the perpetrator is prosecuted, and charged and punished. And secondly, making sure that we are investigating those who are retaliating and abusing their positions of command or power.

CROWLEY: A huge number of women who said they did report said they also felt retaliation career wise or otherwise.

DUCKWORTH: This issue is a power issue, it's not a sex issue. It's a power issue. And we have to empower --

CROWLEY: In a culture that's built on power and rank.

DUCKWORTH: It is. But, you know, the military, because it's built on power and rank, has the ability to fix it based on that same tradition of power and rank. Commanders can put an end to this. And I am very, very disturbed that they have not been able to do this. Look, we're both still serving. We're taking the courses and the classes the military is mandating. Something is breaking down between the coursework that's happening and the education that's happening and what actually happens when somebody reports a problem. And that's where we need to be fixed. Because after 10 years, you have not solved the problem, done. We need to do something and we need to come up with a different system.

CROWLEY: Did you see or feel or know anything within this culture when you were serving?

GABBARD: I mean it has existed. And it's hard to be in the military without being aware of it. During my first deployment to Iraq there was a heightened state of awareness because of incidences that were rising in the camp where we were. And we were trained and briefed at our level as soldiers on things to be aware of, you know, travel in battle buddy teams, don't walk out alone even on the camp where theoretically you should be safe.

CROWLEY: Where your colleagues are.

GABBARD: Exactly.

CROWLEY: Did you feel it? I mean do you know? I mean it just seems that the culture somehow seems ripe for this in a way that's kind of inexplicable.

DUCKWORTH: I think my experience was a little bit different in that I was an officer. Your first tour you were an e-4. So the rank structure was a little bit different. So I had a lot more power that came with me and I was able to exercise that. This goes back to empowering the female service members to stand up, to know that when they speak up that they will be listened to and they will be treated fairly. CROWLEY: How do you do that?

GABBARD: These predators seek out people who are weak targets.


GABBARD: I was not a weak target. So it's not something I experienced personally. However, my command was one that was -- that did create this safe climate for people to be able to make those kinds of reports. But you can't make it based on, you know, the personalities or the strengths or weaknesses of any specific commander, which is why the system has to be one that is safe, transparent and fair holding people accountable.

CROWLEY: So what is evident is that people are afraid to report. And what's being reported isn't being dealt with at a great percentage. Tell me a couple of key things that must happen. Because it sounds to me that both of you have lost faith in the military justice system being able to handle this.

DUCKWORTH: Right. And, you know, Candy, I am an absolute supporter of the UCMJ, the uniform code of military justice and the commander, having been a commander and at times I was the only woman in an all-male unit being a commander that has full commander authority over your unit. But I think at this point in this instance of military sexual trauma, military sexual assault, the military has shown it's not capable of fixing this problem. CROWLEY: This is a big deal in the military, Congresswoman Gabbard, to take something out of the chain of command. That is the holy grail of military life.

GABBARD: Right. This is serious because you're talking about the commander, right? Someone who has the ability to have that trust and confidence of their unit in them and their ability to lead and command and have that power, but understanding that this is something that falls outside of that realm and also something that requires a check and balance so that there is not a single person who will be in a position to abuse that power that they have been entrusted with, which is huge. You're taking care of soldiers, you're taking care of service members. And having that independent investigative body as well as having someone outside the chain of command who doesn't have the power -- the commander should not have the power to overturn a jury's verdict.

DUCKWORTH: In these serious cases like this.

GABBARD: Exactly.

DUCKWORTH: And, again, this goes back, Candy, to I think -- I've been a supporter of the system -- of the UCMJ until this point. But this is such an aberration, this is so horrendous, this is absolutely so (INAUDIBLE) unacceptable that it's time to take a next very serious step.

CROWLEY: So by serious steps, a, this chain of command thing that there would be -- you would no longer take a complaint of sexual advancement. Let's say a good number of these are men as well.

DUCKWORTH: Right. Almost half...


CROWLEY: Nonetheless, you could take this. You don't take this to your commander, you take this to an outside independent review still within the military and the commander could not overturn --

GABBARD: The outcome of the investigation or the outcome of the judicial process. CROWLEY: And if you are found in the military to be guilty of sexual assault, unwanted sexual contact, rape, whatever degree you want, should you be thrown out of the military?

DUCKWORTH: Yes. It would be a serious -- if you're found guilty of rape or sexual assault, you should be thrown out. That's a serious charge.

GABBARD: Dishonorable discharge.


GABBARD: Something that will stick with this person for the rest of their lives. It doesn't just stick to military career, any other job they try to get in the civilian world this will be on their record.

DUCKWORTH: If try to get a federal job, if they try to get a state job that will be there.

GABBARD: That's right.

CROWLEY: So let me ask you as a last question. We have this incident where an air force officer who is in charge of the sexual assault unit was arrested himself for sexual assault. We know nothing's been proven yet. Your first reaction to hearing that news?

DUCKWORTH: I just --

GABBARD: Shocked.

DUCKWORTH: Nightmare. This is -- it's a betrayal of trust.

GABBARD: That's right.

DUCKWORTH: It's a betrayal. The military has said, we're going to fix this problem. And we've seen the military try to fix this problem because we serve. And yet you appointed someone who is supposed to be fixing a problem who is a perpetrator, who is a predator. And this is not acceptable.

GABBARD: Completely undermines that trust that Tammy's talking about.


GABBARD: The trust that we're trying to build with this climate of understanding that you can safely go and report when you've been a victim of a heinous crime. And this really undermines whatever progress has been made over time.

CROWLEY: So, you know, discipline, honor, country, all of those things seem to me betrayed - and again taking away not been yet convicted of anything.

DUCKWORTH: Right. CROWLEY: But it just seems this seems to be a bad thing to do in society, but in the military --

DUCKWORTH: This is a betrayal. This is not only a crime against the victim, this is a betrayal to your unit, this is a betrayal to your nation. It is a betrayal to the entire structure. And that is simply not acceptable because I want women to serve. As women rise through the ranks because we now can serve in combat, we're going to get more women in leadership positions and I hope that will help as well.


DUCKWORTH: But, you know, this just has to be stamped out now.

CROWLEY: All right.

GABBARD: Absolutely.

CROWLEY: First things you all say is take it out of the chain of command and second of all nobody can overturn the conviction.

GABBARD: And having that victim-centered response.


GABBARD: I think that's critical from start to finish making sure that that culture is there, that safe and transparent and accountable.

CROWLEY: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Tammy Duckworth, thank you for being here. Come back. We'll keep track of this.

DUCKWORTH: Thank you.

GABBARD: Aloha. Thank you.

CROWLEY: When we return, the brothers of accused Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro speak exclusively to CNN. Then our political panel on Rand Paul taking the fight to Hillary Clinton.

CROWLEY: Before we get to our panel, a look at today's headlines.


CROWLEY: The brothers of accused Cleveland kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro are speaking out in an interview with CNN's Martin Savidge airing tomorrow morning. Pedro and Onil Castro say they are grateful three women and 6-year-old girl are now free and safe. Cleveland police say Ariel Castro's brothers had nothing to do with the abductions.

A Cleveland P.R. firm that specializes in crisis management is expected to issue a statement on behalf of all three kidnapping survivors this morning. The firm is representing the women pro bono. Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, have not spoken publicly since they were rescued almost a week ago.

A woman says she was bitten by a bomb sniffing dog at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Susan Dubitsky said she didn't provoke the dog and was treated by paramedics. The TSA and Atlanta police are investigating the incident.


CROWLEY: When we return, the IRS versus the tea party. And, later, paying tribute to the one person that everyone in Washington likes, mom.


CROWLEY: Joining me now, Democratic strategist, Mo Elleithee, Karen Tumulty of "The Washington Post," and Republican strategist, Alex Castellanos. Thank you all for joining us.

Little something here on the IRS -- new IRS statement on the targeting of groups with the name tea party or patriot in their name. In the timeline it shows that as early as 2011 senior officials knew this. The IRS has just put out a statement saying, "IRS senior leadership was not aware of this level of specific details at the time of the March 2012 hearing when the Commissioner told Congress that there was no targeting of people. The timeline does not contradict the commissioner's testimony. While Exempt Organization officials knew of the situation earlier, the timeline reflects the IRS senior leadership did not have this level of detail. The timeline supports what the IRS acknowledged on Friday that mistakes were made. There were not partisan reasons behind this."

So let's begin with mistakes were made. It has such a ring because there's no kind of ownership of mistakes were made. There's no subject matter to this sentence. How big a deal is this?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think it's a blow for the president. You know, if the IRS' slogan should not be that, we've got all it takes to take all you've got. And this is the coercive power of government, the president and the State of the Union from then on has made the case government is this big warm fuzzy thing is all of us working together as a community. And here we see the other face of government, big old top down coercive power which is easily runs amuck. So politically this undermines his message.

CROWLEY: And can they get some distance out of this? I mean, you have to admit Carl Levin, Democrat from Michigan said we have to look into this. This is not a great situation. They say, look, it was a small group of agents. It certainly wasn't some, you know, IRS- wide thing. Nonetheless it really does sort of feed into Republican story lines about what the Obama administration is all about, big government.

MO ELLEITHEE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes. This is going to be a tremendous fund raising opportunity for Republicans and tea party organizations all across the country. They're going to feed on this. But I do think there is universal concern with this. You do see Democratic members on the hill raising concern with this. You saw the White House, you saw Jay Carney yesterday in his briefing say, you know, no, this isn't cool. This is something we've got to look at and figure out what went wrong. So I do think still early in this process but I do think there can be -- there should be investigation. And if it can be isolated to just a few people, I think the administration ends up being OK on this.

CROWLEY: We have what we call legs to a story. Does it have legs? Meaning will it play out over time in the headlines? Some are suggesting that up against Benghazi people understand and sort of relate to the IRS coming in and, you know, looking at your books and that this might be more powerful.

KAREN TUMULTY, "THE WASHINGTON POST": And while we don't know who knew what and when, the fact is the IRS in particular has a history most infamously with Richard Nixon but going back to FDR's vendetta against Andrew melon of being an agency that presidents have used to harass and punish their enemies. Now, there were a lot of reforms passed after Watergate that were supposed to make the agency more independent and accountable, but, again, it's the historic echoes I think that give this a real resonance and that really do suggest the White House better get out ahead of this.

CROWLEY: And we should mention that a Bush appointee was running the IRS during the time -- first of all, he's the one that gave the testimony that said there's no targeting going on. No evidence that leads to him at this point. We know so little about it but it was a Bush appointee. So we need to point that out. Let (ph) me (ph) move you to the other big story this week, which is Benghazi. In particular Alex, if you will for me, the Democrats are pushing back very hard on this saying nothing new. There's nothing new out there. This is all about politics. So I want to play for you Rand Paul something that he said in Iowa this week discussing Hillary Clinton's former head of the state department.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: They're asking for security. They're pleading for security. And they got nothing. It was inexcusable. It was a dereliction of duty. And it should preclude her from holding out her office.


CROWLEY: Now, while I'm asking you this question I want to put up an NRCC, a Republican campaign committee, an ad they put up asking for funds saying, you know, we're after Benghazi. Is it smart to go after substantive things with Rand Paul in Iowa attacking Hillary, who might run in 2016 and the NRCC raising funds off of it. Isn't that kind of a mixed message?

CASTELLANOS: Well sometimes if you make something too political you undermine your motive that you really want -- a fair investigation.

CROWLEY: Do you think that has happened here?

CASTELLANOS: Not yet. Politics is also how we govern our governors. It's the only control we have. So, when government fails, the political arena is the place that we want to expose something and bring it to people's attention. And this is bad news for Hillary Clinton. This could be what mission accomplished was for George Bush. What difference does it make could be for Hillary Clinton? She -- three bad mistakes here. She didn't look after the people under her care in Benghazi. She either allowed or encouraged or didn't know about a cover up and then she marked it with a YouTube moment and those things last and travel in politics. This is going to make it very tough for her in 2016.

CROWLEY: YouTube is pretty unforgiving. Mo, you work for Hillary Clinton. Does this make life difficult for her?

ELLEITHEE: Look, are there going to be questions about this? Probably. There should be. This is an issue that is serious. Should not be a political issue, though. And that is what the Republicans are doing right now. Just this morning, Darrell Issa said, we're not targeting Barack Obama, we're not targeting Hillary Clinton. That ad that you just threw up there had a picture of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Rand Paul going to a Republican dinner and making it about Hillary Clinton's perspective presidential campaign when no one knows if she is planning on running for president, it just makes the point that this really is political. Add to that the fact that there isn't anything new that has came out in recent days and it just (INAUDIBLE) that these guys are just struggling to pin this on her in order to score political points.

CROWLEY: Really quickly, Alex...


... I'm going to give Karen the last word.

CASTELLANOS: It's just really hard to imagine the Obama administration is criticizing anyone else for being critical and this administration has been on the stump campaigning forever about everything.

CROWLEY: So Karen, where does it go from here? Has it damaged Hillary? Will it damage Hillary Clinton, should she decide to run?

TUMULTY: I think that, you know, it's going to be difficult for any Democrat. There's sort of a history of the country not giving a president in essence, a third term. But, yes, I do think this is going to come back and haunt her again and again. And I disagree. There have been some new details that have come out both on the kind of furious infighting that was happening and sort of the fact that the first impulse was sort of to protect the state department.

CROWLEY: Was it, you know, it was about politics, but does seem to be about internal state department politics not to wanting to get "thrown under the bus" by the CIA for not paying enough attention to security. Mo Elleithee, Karen Tumulty, Alex Castellanos thanks for joining us.

Coming up, honoring mom. From both sides of the aisle.


And finally this morning, (INAUDIBLE) from our "GETTING TO KNOW" web series a salute to a non-partisan group of people with extraordinary influence on the country's future, moms.

We start with Condoleezza Rice who spoke with us about growing up in the segregated south.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: My mother and I went to buy an Easter dress and we went into one of the big department stores and the lady said, the sales lady said she'll have to try it on in there and pointed to a store room and my mother said, looking her dead in the eye, either she tries this dress on in the fitting room or we don't buy it.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: I was offered a job as an economics policy researcher for my home state senator Bob Kasten at the time and she really gave me a big nudge to take that job because she was worried I'd become a ski bum.

CROWLEY: What was the defining thing for you?

ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, MAYOR, LOS ANGELES: A mother of unconditional love. A woman of an indomitable spirit to overcome.

BEN CARSON, JOHN HOPKINS UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL PEDIATRIC: Not only that she told us to turn off the TV and start reading books, but she was always sort of struggling to try to learn how to read herself or, you know, she made us think that she couldn't read.

GEN. JAMES L. JONES (RET.) U.S. MARINE CORPS: My mother used to put hot water bottles in bed to keep us warm and those post-war years in Europe were - was interesting to watch the recovery.

KAMALA HARRIS, CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: My mother used to say one of the many things she would say is, you know, you may be the first to do many things, but make sure you're not the last.

JIM DEMINT (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: My mother started a business in our house to support us and she taught dancing and decorum and it was the DeMint Academy of Dance and Decorum. The worst thing that could happen is to be called downstairs to dance with someone who was 50 years old.

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Our first business when we got out of the -- I got out of the Navy doughnut shop with my mom (INAUDIBLE) and within a couple months we built up so much business we had to start late at night, which is good except my mom said don't sell any more doughnuts, Rick.

HOWARD SCHULTZ, CEO, STARBUCKS: My mother, my mother gave me a cup of instant coffee probably when I was 10, 9 or 10 years old and I hated it.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: My mother was so spectacular. She knew women were capable of more things. Every day I think if she lived now what she would be.


CROWLEY: Now from this mom to my mom and all the mothers out there watching, a very happy mother's day to you, thank you for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. Head to for analysis and extras, including our "GETTING TO KNOW" interview with Susan Collins on her strategic reasons for getting married in August. If you missed any part of today's show, you can find us on iTunes. Just search STATE OF THE UNION.

Fareed Zakaria, GPS, is next for our viewers here in the United States.