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State of the Union

Interview with Nancy Pelosi

Aired September 22, 2013 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Autumn in Washington, a season of deadlines and consequences.


CROWLEY (voice-over): Today, House Republicans vote to keep funding the government so long as Obamacare is defunded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's time for us to say no. It's time to stop this before it causes any more damage.

CROWLEY: Unable to stop the bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The House will be in order.

CROWLEY: House Democrats move to shape the message.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) MINORITY LEADER: They're anti-government ideologues who dominate the Republican Party.

CROWLEY: Our exclusive with House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, on looming budget showdowns, her own political future, and the pope.

Then Republicans versus Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will do everything necessary and anything possible to defund Obamacare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't let the government shutdown. We can't be kamikazes. We can't be Gen. Custer.

CROWLEY: Our political panels take on the civil war in the GOP. And on the eve of the U.N. general assembly, a look at the legacy of Barack Obama's foreign policy. Brilliant strategy or sheer luck?

Plus, will she or won't she? Does she even know? More tea leaves from the nothing frontrunner. Journalist, Joe Hagan, on his interview with Hillary Clinton for New York magazine.



CROWLEY (on-camera): Good morning from Washington. I'm Candy Crowley.

House Republicans celebrated the passage of their spending bill this week, but it will be short lived. Next stop, the Democratic- controlled Senate that will absolutely reject that bill and anything that does Obamacare. This sets up a standoff it could result in a government shutdown October 1st.

The president accuses Republicans of playing politics and trying to, quote, "mess with him." House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, calls House Republicans anti-government.


PELOSI: We're not here to expand government, but we're not here to eliminate government. If the idea is to limit government, let's work together to do that.


CROWLEY: I sat down with Nancy Pelosi just after the House vote and asked her where she's willing to compromise.


CROWLEY: Where are you willing to limit government?

PELOSI: Well, none of us of comes here to have more government than we need. So, we should subject everything we do to real scrutiny to say is this needed because most of it is an expenditure. So, is this needed? Is it doing what it set out to do? Can we consolidate? We should again only subject and review what we do here to make the country work for the American people.

I was making the distinction between those who say how much government do we need for those who say we don't need any government. The anti-government ideology that is making a mess of what goes on in Congress now.

CROWLEY: Do you think there will be a government shutdown or is there room in there for some sort of agreement that could bring enough Democrats and enough Republicans in the House together to keep the government in business at the end of the month?

PELOSI: Let's be really clear about this. The Republicans put legislation on the floor that was intended to shut down government. For them, that's a victory, because they're anti-government ideologues who dominate the Republican Party.

CROWLEY: They want to defund Obamacare.

PELOSI: No, they want to shut down the government. The effect of putting the Affordable Care Act on the bill is to shut down government. They know that. They know that has no prospect of prevailing.

CROWLEY: Do you believe they really want to shut down the government? Because you know if you said to them, they would say, we think this is a disaster because it is hurting businesses. It is causing businesses to go from full time jobs to part time jobs. So, they can get out from under health care.

PELOSI: It is an excuse. It is not a reason. It is an excuse, it is not a reason. Now, for the 42nd time this week, they voted to defund one approach or another, did fund the Affordable Care Act. They know it's not going anyplace. Instead of spending the time of congress to reach an agreement -- now, this is a wolf in wolf's clothing.

It's two nos do not make a yes. On the other hand, now they have a bill. It's sort of disguises what's happening on the budget side where they have a budget figure which their own appropriation's chairman said this is not enough funding to carry on the work of government.

CROWLEY: Well, that was my next question. Is the spending level OK with you? Set aside --




CROWLEY: How far away are they from what you could deal with?

PELOSI: What we deal with is what we agreed to in the Budget Control act which is a bipartisan agreement. The Budget Control Act was one trillion and 57 (INAUDIBLE). That makes a very big difference in the delivery of service to the American people. So, I think it's really important to note that there are lots of excuses that they use.

But for many of them, I call them legislative arsonists. They're there to burn down what we should be building up in terms of investments and education and scientific research and all that it is that make our country great and competitive. I don't paint them all with the same brush. And I certainly don't paint the speaker with that brush. But enough of them in their caucus to shut down government. That would be a victory for them.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you then about Obamacare, itself. Coming up for a big date on Obamacare October 1st when people can begin to sign up through the -- marketplaces. Do you have any reservations at all? Are you worried at all?

And I ask you this because you know union leaders, I mean, James Hoffa is one of those who wrote a letter to you and said Obamacare is now stands would, quote, "destroy the foundation of the 40-hour work week." That's pretty tough from a loyal Democratic constituency.

PELOSI: Well, we're working on the issue that relates to all of these multiemployer plans which unions are one and some are charities.

CROWLEY: Bargaining rights or otherwise risks. There's more than one employer involved in a contract.

PELOSI: More than one employer involved in a contract. And that has to be certainly clarified. There's so much the president can do within the law. But there is some leeway to facilitate as we are in the Congress under the exchanges. So, I'm optimistic, because we will find a path. But overwhelmingly for the American people, this is a liberation.

This is life, healthy life, liberty, the freedom to pursue your happiness which could be follow your passion for good rather than follow your palate and be constrained by your policy. It's about wellness. It's about prevention, it's about a healthier America.

CROWLEY: It's not reducing the deficit so far? PELOSI: Well, it is, because by any measure you see that the cost of health care in our country is at the rate of increase is greatly reduced.

CROWLEY: Right. But still increasing?

PELOSI: But we're on the right path. And the bill isn't implemented yet. The bill isn't implemented yet. So, when it is implemented which will be -- they'll sign up in October, but it will be implemented in January. You'll see even more of that. And this will reduce cost, again, public, privately, individually to people.

And so, when they talk about wanting to reduce the deficit -- Obamacare, they're completely wrong. Now, has that message gotten out? Obviously not adequately.

CROWLEY: No chance you would agree to put it off as some are thinking of with the debt ceiling some Republicans are thinking why don't we attach a year long delay for people to sign up?

PELOSI: Because they don't -- because these are people who do not believe in a public role. They think that Social Security has no place in a free society. That's why they want to privatize. They think that Medicare should wither on the vine. That's why they're voucherizing.

So, this is not -- this isn't a good faith initiative. This is an excuse to, again, hand it all over to their friends, the insurance companies or, again, not have a public role in this important initiative.

CROWLEY: So you wouldn't agree to anything that involved a year long delay for people signing up for insurance in the marketplace?

PELOSI: Absolutely, positively not.

CROWLEY: No way?

PELOSI: Absolutely, positively not. It's important for people to get the advantages that they will have. And in order to do that, you enlarge the pool to do it.

CROWLEY: I am hearing now from your Republican colleagues that the debt ceiling which battle over which comes next month or, you know, maybe early November --

PELOSI: Next week.

CROWLEY: Next week you're going to start talking about --


PELOSI: In middle October.

CROWLEY: In middle October. So, that is where they believe that they can begin to do some of the spending cuts they want to do, that they can negotiate there. What is your position on spending ceiling, further cuts, who does that negotiating?

PELOSI: Well, first of all, it is an issue that really shouldn't be a conversation. The confidence that the world and the American economy should have and that the full faith and credit of the United States of America should be without a doubt.

CROWLEY: Well, lots of presidents have negotiated over this.

PELOSI: Well, I know, but nobody has stopped it. Nobody has stopped it.

CROWLEY: But again, I just have to point out that President Clinton, President Bush, President Reagan, and this president have all negotiated the debt ceiling and given up something for that. So, why now --

PELOSI: Because the coverage is there. There's no more cuts to make. It's really important that people understand that. We all want to reduce the deficit. Remember this, President Obama, when he became president, he said I'm going to cut the deficit in half in four years. He did it in four years and three months.

He did that. He's on a path to deficit reduction. We're all committed to that. Put everything on the table. Review it. But you cannot have any more cuts just for the sake of cuts. Right now, you're taking trophies.

CROWLEY: Not entitlements. You don't want to touch entitlements.

PELOSI: We want to prolong entitlements. We're not going to sit at a table for people who say Social Security has no place in a free society. Medicare should wither on the vine, and that's what they do.

PELOSI: They have legislation --

CROWLEY: John Boehner doesn't do that. I mean, John Boehner doesn't say I want to get rid of Social Security.

PELOSI: No, they do. The leadership -- remember, their leadership is the author of the bill to privatize Social Security sessions. This isn't odd person out in their caucus. This is in the ranks of the leadership. And by the way -- by the way, by the way, voucherizing of Medicare is in the Ryan budget.

Medicare should wither on the vine. That is in the Ryan budget. President Washington said as he was leaving, he cautioned against political parties at war with their own government. Let me introduce you to the Republican caucus and the House of Representatives. Not all of them, as you say, don't paint them all with the same brush. But enough of them to wag the dog.

So, this is totally irresponsible, completely juvenile and as I called it legislative arson. It's just destructive.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you to clear up any misconceptions we may have about the speakership and if your caucus so wanted and Democrats were to win next year, win the majority back, would you be willing to be speaker again if your caucus wanted you?

PELOSI: The question was asked me before. Do you sit around dreaming about being speaker again, and I said no. They read that into being she doesn't want to be the speaker again. One day at a time. I love having the support of my caucus. We have a good working relationship. It's up to -- first, we have to win our own elections.

Then, we have to win the majority. And then, we'll see what our caucus wants to do after that. But there are several steps along the way.

CROWLEY: But you intend to win your election again as --


CROWLEY: And you didn't -- I'm trying to see how I can put this. In no way did you intend to signal that you were not interested in the speakership?

PELOSI: No, but it wasn't -- I answered the question, do you sit around dreaming about being speaker again? No. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: We'll have more from minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, later this hour.

But first, I want to talk about everything we just heard. Joining me around the table, Al Cardenas, he is president of the American Conservative Union, Joe Lockhart, a former chief spokesman and senior adviser to President Bill Clinton, and CNN political commentators Kevin Madden and Donna Brazile. Welcome all.

I want to start first with sort of the politics of this. It's clear to me that going in 2016, the Democrats want their message to be Republicans are anti-government and they're standing in the way of everything. They, you know, they shut the government down or they tried to block Obamacare so many times.

And the Republican message is going to be we're trying to stop something you hate. Obamacare is a disaster. We were out there standing for the people. Does that sum up going into 2016 and who's got the winning message? DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the democrats have the winning message and that's because the Democrats believe that we need to grow the economy, put people back to work, continue to reduce the deficit. You heard Speaker Pelosi said the deficit is the lowest since 2008. So, we're running on, I think, a platform that we're trying to create jobs and help the American recover from the greatest --

AL CARDENAS, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: You know, the Obamacare has become the albatross for the Democrats. It's stop the press (ph)into a distraction. He has no legacy for the cycle. You close your eyes and you say what's this administration's vision for these four years? A year and a half has already passed and we've seen nothing.

The American people want their president to lead. There are two things about Obamacare that got him under a track. Number one, American people don't care about Obamacare anymore. Less than 40 percent do. The marketplace has rejected Obamacare. More than 60 percent of the American people already on self-insured programs and 20 percent more want to join them.

It's a non-workable program. The House has its point of view. The Senate has it points of view. The president forgot about his legacy and became a leader. He'd say, all right, let's come up with a compromise, but that's not what they're doing. It's either all or nothing for the Senate, and frankly, American people want two things. They want to defund Obamacare and they don't want government to shut down.

JOE LOCKHART, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: First off, if can you go out and find me a bunch of Americans who sit around their table saying let's defund Obamacare, that's a family I want to meet. This is a Washington creation. Listen, I think it's not that much different than the past where Republicans have their message. Democrats have theirs.

The problem here for the Republicans is they're pursuing the exact wrong tactics, which is they're going to go shut down the government. And the government is sort of a (INAUDIBLE) thing. People take it for granted. They don't sit around and thank the government every day because the road is built.


LOCKHART: But when you shut it down and you start telling troops they're not going to not get paid, when you start kicking people out of Yellow Stone Park and forcing them out of their summer vacation, people remember, government is essential to their daily lives. The Republicans are pursuing a strategy of self-distraction here.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I have a different take on Joe's point, but I think his main point is right, that the American public doesn't sit around and saying, well, the anti-government side of their family table and the pro-government side of their table. Instead, it's about whether or not what is a good government look like? What does smarter government look like?

And, I think where the Democrats have a danger where they always have, which is that their entire message is focused on what the government can do for them whereas I think the Republicans, they do have the danger, too and just being anti-government. Instead, we have to be for a smarter government.

We have to be for a government that works for people, that creates jobs, that can actually, you know, be a more efficient in people's lives. And I think that's where the focus is on being solution oriented as well as a Republican Party that aligns itself with people's anxieties about the growth of spending and the fact that we don't have enough economic growth right now.

LOCKHART: The republicans by and large, and I don't disagree with a lot of what Kevin said. Republicans by and large are pursuing a path that's going in the opposite direction.


CARDENAS: I disagree with this. I think you have to find out the following. Number one, this is not about defunding Obamacare. This is about Obamacare's already been in the marketplace. People's insurance rates are going up 20, 30, 40, 50 percent.

BRAZILE: That's not true, Al.

CARDENAS: Yes, it is.


BRAZILE: Over 100 million people have already experienced the benefits of Obamacare. Whether it's young people who are remaining on their parents' plan or women with pre-existing conditions can now go out and get the kind of medical help they need. This is not defunding -- this is all about the Republicans not having a plan. The Republicans are raising money on this to defund Obamacare.


CARDENAS: The marketplace in America has great instincts. It's all about affordability. Why do you think that 60 percent plus of the American people reject Obamacare over self-insurance programs? Because premiums are 15 percent less.


CARDENAS: Very simple.

LOCKHART: Why do you think President Obama who ran for president in 2008 on this platform and again in 2012 won overwhelmingly? So, all of this talk about the marketplace and the rejection of Obama and defunding, it's not true.

(CROSSTALK) LOCKHART: This has gone through the ballot box several times. It's gone through the courts. Republicans can't let go. And that is going to be the scene of their own destruction.

CROWLEY: Let me reframe the question in terms of what we called the civil war inside the Republican Party. Nancy Pelosi referred to it, that there is this group of 30 to 45 conservatives. They're making life extremely difficult, at least, for John Boehner, the speaker. Are they making it difficult for the Republican Party to keep the House, this civil war?

MADDEN: Well, look, I think if you look at these 50 to 80 Republicans, I think there were 80 that signed the letter. I mean, you go and you look at their districts. Obamacare and Obama, President Obama and Democrat solutions are very unpopular in -- so there's a political reason why they are making this case.

And I think they also believe that the Republican Party in order to find leverage to really get the reforms that we need, to make government actually work smarter and more efficient, that they have to press this in order to sort of gain that leverage. And I think John Boehner looks at that and he understands that this is --

CROWLEY: Well, there's pressing it and then there's going over the cliff with it.


MADDEN: I think John Boehner is taking two approaches. He has two chances, which is he can tell people that this is not going to work or he can demonstrate that the voice of these Republicans and these conservatives has to be heard and we send it over to the Senate, and then we see what happens. And I think that's --


BRAZILE: This is a broken record now. I mean, you're not going to defund. It's a political impossibility.

MADDEN: Obamacare is in any way popular with the American public.

BRAZILE: Kevin, 16 to 17 percent of liberal Democrats oppose Obamacare because it doesn't have the public option. If you look at the Republican -- this is the Republican plan from 1993, 1994 signed by Democratic president.


CROWLEY: A quick time-out here, because we're going to be back with you all. If you have a final thing on that, but we're going to move on to a different subject when we return. Hillary Clinton's first big interview since leaving the Obama administration. She talks about life outside the spotlight, watching movies, walking her dogs, and still, the article hands of a team taking shape. We'll at the Clinton and members of her tightly knit inner circle say about 2016. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Welcome back. A bit of data that will likely surprise no one. Polls show former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, with a commanding lead among Democratic voters heading into the 2016 presidential election. But will she run and if she does, where does that leave Vice President Joe Biden?

Polls show he's a very distant second choice. We asked house leader -- House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi to weigh in.


CROWLEY: Do you think Hillary Clinton will run for president?

PELOSI: I don't know. But I know that if she does, she will win. And when she becomes president, she'll be the best equipped, best prepared people to enter the White House in a very long time. She is by dent of her experience as a senator, as a secretary of state, as a first lady herself with participating the way she did.

Certainly, with all due respect to our president and I think he's magnificent and wonderful and a blessing to us, but certainly, more prepared than President Obama, certainly more prepared than President Bush. Certainly more prepared than President Clinton.

CROWLEY: More prepared than Joe Biden?

PELOSI: Well, I'm saying the residents that we've had. Joe Biden is very prepared. And I think President Bush senior was prepared. He had been a vice president. But I'm talking that recent memory of presidents that we have had. You know, Joe Biden would be very prepared as well. You asked me about Hillary Clinton.

CROWLEY: Right. I was trying to get you, would you prefer Hillary Clinton over the vice president?

PELOSI: You know what, when they just announce that they're running, I'll --

CROWLEY: You'll tell me?


PELOSI: I always have a little -- saying when you're serious about running, I'll be serious about it. But I think it would be magnificent for America to have a woman president. And by the way, incidental. More importantly, very qualified.


CROWLEY: Running or not, Clinton returns to newsstands this week smiling big she appears on the cover of the latest "New York" magazine. It's her first major interview since leaving the state department. We want to talk to the man who interviewed her and wrote the piece. "New York" magazine contributing editor, Joe Hagan, Joe, great get. One all of us are, you know, trying to get sort of ad nauseam over the week. So, tell me, what is your take away on the big question about her in town.

JOE HAGAN, NEW YORK MAGAZINE CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: Well, she's come out for the first time here and said, you know, I'm thinking about it. So, she's weighing it. I think that she's coming out during an interesting week when all of the Clinton world is gathering in New York for the Clinton Global Initiative annual event.

And she's sort of sending out a message out there, two messages, one, she's thinking about it, and the other is that give me some time to think about it or at least let's put it up the road a bit, because I think that she's concerned or her staff is concerned. You know, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves and have the, you know, front runner that's so strong and like what happened in 2008 --

CROWLEY: Let me ask you -- I want to read one of the quotes in the article from her where you said to her you're wrestling with this idea. Do you wrestle with the idea of running? She says, "I do." And then she goes on to say, "and I'll do whatever I can from whatever position I find myself in to advocate for the values and the policies I think are right for the country. I will just continue to weigh what the factors are that would influence me making decision one way or the other."

She has a discussion with you about the many things that she was involved in, the Obama administration among them, the death of bin laden. And you talked about how, you know, sort of a perfect quote that cuts both ways for her.

HAGAN: Yes, that's right. Well, she emphasized her bond with Obama and how she had been so close to the vicinity, you know, of the commander in chief, up close, front row seat she said, you know, to everything that happened and she was very instrumental in, you know, telling him to try to take that risk.

And that they kind of sweated that out together and this was like a moment in which she sort of, you know, shared the commander in chief and the pressures of that with him. And, you know, more or less telling, you know, it was a situation in which she's in a position much like being in the commander in chief role and showing that she has had that experience.

CROWLEY: Right. I'm qualified. Let me ask you about what I thought was a really interesting part of this article. That is when you talk about how some of the people around Hillary Clinton said oh, here's a couple people that you should talk to and you go to those people who don't want their names attached to say oh, yes, she's running.

It always says to me when someone says you ought to go talk to this person, that that's really what they want to be saying.

HAGAN: That's right. Well, the most fascinating part of the experience for me was talking to many of her former staffers from the state department and some of her closer friends. And they are much more open about here's why she's qualified, here's what happened at the state department that gives her the experience, here's how she learned from the mistakes of 2008. So, they're out there with these bullet points that are very interesting.

That she's not going to be as insular as she was in 2008 which is a big criticism of that campaign, that she is going to be more, you know, she showed more personality and was out being more human as a secretary of state.

HAGAN: And also very importantly that she is more independent from her husband, the president, Bill Clinton, whose role in the '08 campaign was seen, you know, as not always positive for her. And one thing that they -- many of her former staffers underlined to me was that and he was not influential in the state department. He was not a factor. And, you know, the take away being, and they said this explicitly that she's more comfortable in her own skin. She's more independent. She's her own entity now in the way that she hadn't been before. And all of these are sort of this is a rough draft of what she made, you know, present if she runs for president.

CROWLEY: Right. Joe Hagan, the article is in the "New York Magazine." The September 30th interview. Take a read. It's fascinating. Thank you so much.

HAGAN: Thanks for having me.

CROWLEY: When we return, the whole Clinton family takes center stage this week. They will be around -- there will be a round of TV appearances and the high profile Clinton global initiative meeting in New York. What it means and how it could affect Hillary and Chelsea Clinton's political futures next.


CROWLEY: Former president Bill Clinton spoke to CNN's Fareed Zakaria about his wife's potential 2016 presidential run. Is it a done deal?


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think she'd be the first to tell you that there's no such thing as a done deal ever by anybody. But I don't know what she is going to do.


CROWLEY: Fareed's interview airs less than 30 minutes from now but we'll get reaction from our panel next.


CROWLEY: We are back with Al Cardenas, Joe Lockhart, Kevin Madden and Donna Brazile. I want to (INAUDIBLE) they're (ph) having just talk to the writer of the article and he interviewed Hillary Clinton. I want to read from you a quote from an anonymous source that he was directed to to talk to. "She's running but she doesn't know it yet. It's just like a force of history. It's inexorable. It's gravitational. I think she actually believes she has more say in it than she actually does." I love that quote. It was like she's running and she doesn't know what -- she thinks she has some say so.

You are quoted in the article, a part of the inner circle. Joe, you have worked for the Clintons. So give us your take because again it's my experience that when they lead you to sources that say stuff like this, she's running.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm neutral in the 2016 race. It's too early to predict it but the train has left the station. The train was already on the tracks. It wasn't derailed in 2008. It was a slow down. And so I believe if she runs she has a very strong chance of winning a nomination of course when the presidency. But I believe Hillary Clinton is one of the most phenomenal women in the world today. She's a great leader. She is decisive. She has the kind of energy you want, the kind of ideas that we need in this country if she runs I really do believe that she will win.

JOE LOCKHART, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think if you look at that anonymous quote and others, it reflects a couple of things. One is everyone who has been with her and has been this far on the journey that wants to complete it it's in their interest to keep pushing.



LOCKHART: It's not just jobs. I think people really believe in this mission. And it's not complete yet. Secondly, I think she knows that you can't wait 2 1/2 years, sit and do nothing and then turn it on. That this is a constant 24/7 campaign that goes on. So I think she knows and she's allowing people to go out and prepare the groundwork. And, you know, a lot of people will say they had a lot of conversations with her. I'll admit to you, I have not talked to her about this. So this is just a guess on my part which is I don't think she's made up her mind. I think she very much wants to be president. I think she thinks what she brings to the office and be unique and good for the country. I think she's going to spent a couple years wrestling with whether it's putting herself and the family through the process of running for president. And that's a personal decision and one she has earned the right to make.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know the hard part now running for president is that it takes an organization. You have to build an organization. So what I find interesting is this organization is already readily there and waiting, right? It's the Clinton industrial complex, right? So that's very interesting. What is also going to be interesting is whether or not that group of people, whether or not they can avoid some of the very, very strong disagreements they had internally and whether or not that affects the efficiency of the organization. The second thing that I found that was very interesting is this idea of an independent Bill Clinton. No way. We should ask Joe whether that is even possible. The idea that he is this passive voice in this operation.


LOCKHART: There's an important point in there which is, I think, again based on my knowledge of both of them, I think that the idea that somehow that Hillary needed to depend on her husband for her thoughts is ridiculous. Now what I think --

MADDEN: I would agree with that.

LOCKHART: What I think what Hillary did when she got into elective politics herself, she did look to her husband as someone who had mastered the art and really did depend. And I think the point that the article makes is that it's different now. She's done it herself. You know what? She's done something her husband did. She ran a campaign and lost. That's where you learn how to win.


AL CARDENAS, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: That's an interesting dichotomy. Usually it's the Republicans who end up with a nominee the second time around. And the Democrats always want to find the brand new figure they hadn't thought of before. This time around, you know, the inner influence sources of our party, we have no clue as to where our nominee will be nor have we figured out who we want to support. And yet, the Democrats for the first time in modern history have already made up their minds who they want to support. It's a true dichotomy. I think frankly there is something to think about and that is -- you know, it is such an overwhelming favorite in 2008. All the cards were in her favor and it didn't happen for her. And I think she has got to look at why it didn't happen for her and can I overcome that. And it's a real serious question that she has got to deal with because frankly we prepared our campaign in 2008 clearly to run against her and it didn't happen. And her rejection was a shock to me. And so we'll see what happens.

CROWLEY: Quickly, let me just ask you about Benghazi because that is clearly what Republicans will go almost immediately. We still haven't heard of end of that story at least in so far as many Republicans who have -- committees who are looking into things. And a lot of people, the big question in their minds, her famous appearance is it a drag?

LOCKHART: Listen. They're going to attack something. It doesn't matter whether it's Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden. They'll find something to attack. That's the nature of politics. I think if you look at the Republicans over the last year and a half -- two years, they have thrown everything they could. They held nothing back in Benghazi. And Hillary Clinton remains the most admired woman in the world. So is it going to be an issue she has to deal with? Yes. Is it going to be a drag on the candidacy? I don't think so.

CROWLEY: I have to stop it there but also we all know she is also a very popular woman. But the minute you become a politician, again your popularity goes down. There is that. The new president of Iran launches a charm offensive aimed at the U.S. Up next why this week could be a pivotal (ph) turning point in U.S..- Iranian relations.


CROWLEY: A couple of weeks ago the U.S. (INAUDIBLE) on the brink of a military strike against Syria. Now in the turn of events there's a chance of diplomatic breakthroughs with not only Syria but Iran. Does the president deserve credit or was he in the right place at the right time? I'll ask our panel next.


CROWLEY: We're back with Al Cardenas, Joe Lockhart, Kevin Madden and Donna Brazile. Foreign policy is certainly not what the president had wanted to focus his second term, on the first year of the second term but it just comes up as we all know. And we saw what happened in Syria where now it's possible Syria is going to rid itself of chemical weapons with help from Russia and the United States and the rest of the world. We're now seeing these kind of amazing statements coming out of the president of Iran, sort of a -- someone said this morning on our air that the last time there was actually a meeting between a president of the United States and a leader in Iran was like 30 years ago. So is the president, has his strategy all along just been so brilliant as Nancy Pelosi told me or is this just -- he just fell into a really good streak of luck?

BRAZILE: I think he laid a strong foundation for these diplomatic channels to work, to be open. The stakes are very high with Iran, there's no question. Iran has been a player not just in Syria but in funding a lot of the terrorist groups, Hezbollah and others. Clearly, if these talks bring out any good meaning, it's wonderful. But we have to verify. But I think it's good to see the president exchanging letters, becoming pen pals with the new leader of Iran.

CROWLEY: Is there a risk of being duped?

MADDEN: Let's not confuse anything that happened over the last few weeks and months with a strategy. Because that has been a bipartisan criticism of the president. That they lacked a strategy to embrace any of the changes that took place with the Arab spring in an effort to sort of secure American national security and foreign policy interests in that region. So I think that's really what has been missing right now is some sort of clarity and confidence that we have a strategy.

CROWLEY: In fact, there are a lot of Democrats that go we're not really sure how this all came about.

LOCKHART: Yes. I think the difference between being president whether Republican or Democrat and being a member of Congress is that you have a strategy and that it doesn't boil down to sound bites that you can go out and campaign on and go out and build messages on. This is highly complicated and most times confidential stuff. So if you look at what's going on with Iran and the president has criticized since the day (INAUDIBLE) that he wasn't hard enough on Iran -

CROWLEY: (INAUDIBLE) the people of Iran (INAUDIBLE).

LOCKHART: Yes. And what we ought to do to threaten nuclear war against him that there's plenty of people in the Republican caucus who advocated that and a much harder military line on Iran. What you're seeing now is the potential fruits of a strategy that was put in place and actually was put in place by presidents before him. And so there's a big difference between what happens on Capitol Hill in front of the cameras and what actually happens.


CROWLEY: I want to read a couple things that just caught my attention. First of all, you can turn the corner where there's a new leader and there's a new leader in Iran now. So that provides some sort of opening. And this is what he tweeted out on Rosh Hashanah, "As the sun is about to set here in Tehran, I wish all Jews especially Iranian Jews, a blessed Rosh Hashanah." That is startling because his predecessor denied the holocaust. One, the distraction of all Jews. In this case (INAUDIBLE). Then we have this from the Israeli's prime minister's office, No one should be fooled by the deception of the Iranian president. The same Rouhani boasted in the past how he duped the international community during nuclear talks while Iran continued its nuclear program. The Iranians are trying to spin their story in the media in order to continue spinning their centrifuges."

CARDENAS: Sincerity and integrity are not in the value system of these Iranian leaders. Words said publicly are meaningless. What's meaningful is geopolitical balance and alliances in the Middle East. Assad's dad in 1970 came into power with help of the Soviet Union and now Putin and Russia are strong allies of Syria. He found an opening in the weakness of the (INAUDIBLE) to the American people the Syria challenge. The only two options were to intervene for regime change or stay out of the way. He chose the weaker option. When the Congress was rejecting the weaker option Putin came in, stepped in and made a decision to agree with the president on a solution. The solution itself is humanitarian but the outcome is that Assad will stay in power. And so the real winner here is Putin. The real winner in the Middle East is Putin.

BRAZILE: It's premature to say the real winner is Putin.

CROWLEY: Right. Let me -- and we all know that things can go belly up really quickly in foreign policy. But the risk to the president in the deal with Russia and Syria and in this opening is does he end up maybe being looked like he got duped?

CROWLEY: No. I wanted to say something stronger though. But he's holding firm on the military option. At the same time he's pursuing diplomatic routes. There's nothing wrong with the president going out and trying to give peace a chance. If it doesn't work, he has a military option on the table. That's what his critics refuse to understand.

CROWLEY: Donna Brazile -- CARDENAS: Congress rejected his proposed military option. CROWLEY: Joe Lockhart. They didn't vote. Al Cardenas. We'll continue this but you're going to watch some commercial breaks. Still ahead, a surprising take on the new pope from one of the nation's most prominent Catholics.


CROWLEY: Before we go, Pope Francis is calling for a new balance between the church's spiritual and political missions. He says the Catholic Church should not interfere spiritually in the lives of gays. He also called for a larger decision making role for Catholic women. We ask Nancy Pelosi, one of the nation's most prominent Catholics for her reaction.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: Starting to sound like a nun. The Pope is starting to sound like the nuns. No his holiness is obviously a very revered figure. I was there for his inauguration. And I being Catholic believed that he was chosen Pope by the intercession of the Holy Spirit so I pay attention to what he says. And I can tell you that there is great joy among Catholics and friends of Catholics as to respect that his holiness pays to all of God's creation and members of the church and then beyond that. It's really quite remarkable. It's a source of joy to us all.

CROWLEY: It is remarkable. I'm not sure it's a source of joy to all Catholics because I've seen conservative Catholics express some reservations about it.

PELOSI: I don't know about them because certainly when it was another Pope who had something else to say, they wanted to hold us all to it.


CROWLEY: Thanks for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. If you missed any part of today's show, find us on iTunes. Search, STATE OF THE UNION. Head to for more of my conversation with House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, and stay with CNN for updates on the Kenyan shopping mall attack where dozens are dead and terrorists still hold hostages.

Fareed Zakaria, GPS, is next with former president Bill Clinton.