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State of the Union

Interview with Barack Obama; Interview with Bobby Jindal

Aired February 02, 2014 - 09:00   ET



CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: On Super Bowl Sunday, there is no "I" in team. But there is in politics.


CROWLEY (voice-over): Today, game on.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wherever I can take steps to expand opportunity to help working families, that's what I'm going to do, with or without Congress.

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) WISCONSIN: Presidents do not write laws. That's what Congress does.

CROWLEY: As House Republicans plotted legislative strategy, the president took his one-man show on the road and sat down with CNN's Jake Tapper for an exclusive interview that covered the waterfront on how much he can really do by himself and whether Sochi is safe.

Then, dissecting Washington from the outside in, Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, joins us on what the president said, how he thinks Washington Republicans are doing, and --

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: I first found out about it after it was over.

CROWLEY: -- what he makes of the ongoing saga of Chris Christie.

Plus, our political panel with its take on the New Jersey governor and whether Democrats have pretty much ceded control of the House to Republicans.



CROWLEY (on-camera): Good morning from Washington. I'm Candy Crowley. At the urging of the Obama administration, some of the nation's biggest companies have pledged to adopt hiring practices that ensure applicants are not screened out of contention simply because they've been jobless for too long. President Obama signed an executive order Friday requiring the federal government to do the same. The White House ceremony was designed to show the president making good on his state of the union "I'll act if Congress won't" promise. CNN's Jake Tapper caught up with the president in Wisconsin and asked him how much can the president really accomplish without Congress.


OBAMA: My big push is making sure we're focused on opportunity, making sure that every single day, all of us in Washington are trying to think about ways that we can help folks get good jobs, make sure that they're train for the good jobs that are out there, make sure that those jobs pay, make sure our kids are getting a great education. Those are the issues that the American people still very much are concerned about.

And, obviously, there's going to be more that we can do if Congress is able to breakthrough some of the gridlock. And if we're able to, for example, pass immigration reform, that is going to add growth to our economy, reduce our deficits.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, THE LEAD: You don't seem confident that that's going to happen.

OBAMA: I actually think that we have a good chance of getting immigration reform.

TAPPER: I mean the jobs issue.

OBAMA: I think there are going to be some issues where it's going to be tough for them to move forward and I am going to continue to reach out to them and say, here are my best ideas. I want to hear yours. But as I said at the state of the union, I can't wait and the American people more importantly cannot wait. We know that one of the biggest problems right now in the jobs market is the long-term unemployed.

TAPPER: They're having trouble -- people won't hire them because they've been unemployed so long.

OBAMA: Because they've been unemployed for so long, folks are looking at that gap in the resume and they're weeding them out before these folks even get a chance for an interview. So, what we've done is to gather together 300 companies just to start wit, including some of the top 50 companies in the country, companies like Wal-Mart and Apple and Ford and others, to say let's establish best practices.

Do not screen people out of the hiring process just because they've been out of work for a long time. We just went through the worst recession since the great depression. All those things cumulatively are going to have an impact.

Will we be able to have more of an impact if we can get Congress, for example, to pass a minimum wage law that applies to everybody as opposed to me just through executive order making sure that folks who are contractors to the federal government have to pay a minimum wage? Absolutely. And that's why I'm going to keep on reaching out to them, but I'm not going to wait for them.

TAPPER: Your critics say this is diminished expectations, and I've been covering you for a long, long time. As you remember, 2005- 2006 in the Senate, I remember during the campaign when you talked about your presidency being a moment when the rise of the oceans would slow and the nation -- the world would heal. And now, you're talking about pen and phone and executive orders and executive actions.

Do you think you were naive back then or have you recalibrated your expectations and your ambitions?

OBAMA: Well, part of it is we got a lot of that stuff done. We've got, in this country, a health care reform that has already signed up millions of people and make sure that everybody who's watching, anybody who already has insurance will not be dropped because of a pre-existing condition. If they don't have health insurance they can get it on health


OBAMA: We have made enormous strides on the education front, changing our student loan programs. Millions more young people get student loans. And, so, part of what's happened is that checklist that I had when I came into office, we have passed a lot of that and we're implementing a lot of it. And so, in no way are my expectations diminished or my ambitions diminished.

But what is obviously true is we got divided government right now. The House Republicans, in particular, have had difficulty rallying around any agenda, much less mine. And in that kind of environment, what I don't want is the American people to think that the only way for us to make big change is through legislation. We've all got to work together to continue to provide opportunity for the next generation.

TAPPER: And let's talk about House Republicans, because -- and Senate Republicans, because there's been a large contingency of Republicans critical of your new approach. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas who might run for president calls this the imperial presidency. And in the House, there is this thing, as you know, called the Stop Act. They want to rein in what you're trying to do. How do you respond to that?

OBAMA: Well, I don't think that's very serious. The truth of the matter is that every president engages in executive actions, in fact, we've been very disciplined and sparing in terms of the executive actions that we've taken. We make sure that we're doing it within the authority that we have under statute.

But, I am not going to make an apology for saying that if I can help middle class families and folks who are working hard to try to get in the middle class, do a little bit better, then I'm going to do it.

And, I think it's a tough argument for the other side to make that not only are they willing to not do anything, but they also want me not to do anything, in which case I think the American people whose right now estimation of Congress is already pretty low might have an even lower opinion of them.

TAPPER: The stop act is not something you take seriously?

OBAMA: I'm not particularly worried about it.

TAPPER: Let's talk about areas where you might be able to make some progress.


TAPPER: I know that a pathway to citizenship in immigration reform is very important to you and it's very important to Democrats and others. It's possible that you might be able to get an immigration reform bill on your desk that has legal status for the millions of undocumented workers who are in this country but not citizenship. Would you veto that?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I'm not going to prejudge what gets to my desk.

TAPPER: Right, but --


OBAMA: Well, I think the principle that we don't want two classes of people in America is a principle that a lot of people agree with. Not just me and not just Democrats. But, I am encouraged by what Speaker Boehner has said. Obviously, I was encouraged by the bipartisan bill that passed out of the Senate. I genuinely believe that Speaker Boehner and a number of House Republicans, folks like Paul Ryan, really do want to get a serious immigration reform bill done.

If the speaker proposes something that says right away folks aren't being deported, families aren't being separated, we're able to attract top young students to provide the skills or start businesses here, and, then there's a regular process of citizenship. I'm not sure how wide the divide ends up being. That's why I don't want to prejudge it.

TAPPER: I just wonder if you see this at all in terms of especially the pathway to citizenship in the way that you seemed to when you were passing health care reform and I was covering it, the public option. In other words, it would be great, in your view, if you could do it. It's not going to happen and there might be some expectation setting you have to do, because I, having reported on this, I don't think House Republicans an pass anything that has a pathway to citizenship.

OBAMA: Well, here's the good news, though. Number one, there is a desire to get it done. And that particularly in this Congress is a huge piece of business, because they haven't got a lot done over the last couple of years out of the House Republican caucus. They've been willing to say what they're against, not so much what they're for. The fact that they're for something, I think, is progress.

I do know that for a lot of families, the fear of deportation is one of the biggest concerns that they've got and that's why we took executive actions given my prosecutorial discretion to make sure we're not deporting kids who grew up here and are Americans for all practical purposes, but we need to get that codified.

And the question is, is there more that we can do in this legislation that gets both Democratic and Republican support but solves these broader problems, including strengthening borders and making sure that we have a legal immigration system that works better than it currently does.

TAPPER: Another big issue in this country and now has to do with the legalization of marijuana.


TAPPER: You gave an interview to "The New Yorker," David Remnick, when you said that you thought smoking pot was a bad habit, but you didn't think it was any worse for a person than drinking. That contradicts the official Obama administration policy both on the website of the Office of National Drug Control policy and also the fact that marijuana is considered a schedule 1 narcotic along with heroin and ecstasy.

Now, do you think you were maybe talking just a little too casually about it with Remnick and "The New Yorker" or are you considering not making marijuana a schedule 1 narcotic?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, what is and isn't a schedule 1 narcotic is a job for Congress.

TAPPER: I think it's the DEA --

OBAMA: It's not something by ourselves that we start changing. No, there are laws undergirding those determinations.

TAPPER: Will you support that?

OBAMA: But the broader point -- I stand by my belief, based I think on the scientific evidence, that marijuana for casual users, individual users, is subject to abuse just like alcohol is, and should be treated as a public health problem and challenge. But as I said in the interview, my concern is when you end up having very heavy criminal penalties for individual users that have been applied unevenly, and in some cases, with a racial disparity.

I think that is a problem. Over the long term, what I believe is, if we can deal with some of the criminal penalty issues, then we can really tackle what is a problem not just for marijuana but also alcohol, also cigarettes, also harder drugs, and that is try to make sure that our kids don't get into these habits in the first place. And the incarceration model that we've taken, particularly around marijuana, does not seem to have produced the kinds of results that we've set. But I do offer a cautionary note and I said this in the interview, those who think legalization is a panacea, I think they have to ask themselves some tough questions, too, because if we start having a situation where big corporations with a lot of resources and distribution and marketing arms are suddenly going out there peddling marijuana, then the levels of abuse that may take place are going to be higher.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: A quick note about who sets federal drug policy, the president can, in fact, downgrade marijuana from a schedule 1 narcotic but only Congress can pass a law to make it legal nationwide.

When we return, Ted Cruz says Obama's executive orders amount to an imperial presidency. I'll ask Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, for his take.



CROWLEY: Joining me now, Governor Bobby Jindal, Republican from Louisiana. Governor, thanks for being here. I want to start at the newsiest part, I think, of this interview with the president may be showing a little opening there when it comes to immigration reform. But you know and I know there's a split within the Republican Party about how to get this done.

Now, some of the more moderates, those who think this has to be done this year saying, OK, instead of a path to citizenship, let's give those who are in this country right now a path to legalization, some sort of work card, that kind of thing. But still, there's not real clarity about whether it could be passed in the House.

Could you look at it from your point of view and tell me what the political cost might be for Republicans, and for that matter, the president, if immigration reform is not passed this year?

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL, (R) LOUISIANA: Well, Candy, good morning. Thank you very much for having me. You know, there are folks in the Republican Party that would tell you the president's doing so poorly right now in the polls, especially with the flawed implementation of the design of the Affordable Care Act, of Obamacare. There are a lot of folks who would tell you we should just stay out of his way and run 2014 as a referendum on that.

I'm not one of those people. I think that we were elected to solve the problems facing the country, includes replacing Obamacare, includes addressing immigration issues, most importantly, includes growing the economy. When it comes to immigration, we've got completely -- a completely backwards system today. What I believe we need is a system of high walls and a broad gate.

Right now, we've got the opposite. We've got low walls and a narrow gate. What I mean by that is we make it very difficult for people to come here legally. We make it very easy for people to come here illegally. As the son of immigrants, I think that, certainly, a lot of people think we should let more people come in to our country because it's compassionate for them, and it certainly is.

I think we should also let more people come into our country legally because it's good for us. When people want to come here, work hard, get an education, play by the rules, that's good for America. And so, I think that this is a problem we can address. I think our system right now is completely backwards.

CROWLEY: You know, a lot was made after the re-election of the president about the Hispanic vote that the president got, which was well over 60 percent. It was said then, as it was said in the first election, Republicans need to get on-board here, pass some sort of immigration reform, get it off the table, then move on to outreach.


CROWLEY: Is there a political price for not acting this year?

JINDAL: Well, if Republicans act, I think we should do it because it's the right thing to do for the country. Let's not just do it because a pollster tells us one thing or another. Let's do it because it's wrong. Look, right now, we're educating some of the world's best and brightest then kick them out of our country to compete with us.

I do think it's right to say we need to secure the border first. I think if the president had been serious about this the last five years, we'd be further along in this discussion. I think the American people are compassionate. I don't think we're the kind of people that are going to kick people out of schools or hospitals or punish kids for what their parents have done. But I think it's also right the American people are skeptical.

We've seen this play before. We remember what happened in the 1980s. So, we have to secure the borders first, but I think after we do that -- and when I say secure the border, I mean, let the border governors certify it as secure. Let's not measure it in terms of just dollars spend or effort expended. Let's actually look at results. Once we do that, I think there is broad agreement on, like you said, on legalization.

There's broad agreement on letting people work here and contribute to our economy if they learn the language, they pay a fine, they go pass a criminal background check. I think there's broad consensus. And you heard it in the president's interview, secure the border first. But I go back to what I said before. Let's have high walls, let's have a broad gate.

After we get through this, as part of this, let's also -- we've got to reform the ways that people come here legally. We need to increase dramatically the opportunities for people to come into our country legally. Again, it's good for them, but it's also good for our country. CROWLEY: Governor, let me move you to marijuana. Certainly, you've seen some states approved -- two states approved recreational use. I know you said that under certain circumstances you could see the medicinal use of marijuana in your state. Let me ask you, though, about the enforcement of laws. Louisiana has some of the toughest marijuana penalties for casual users, meaning, those with low amounts of marijuana.

Do you think it is time to look at the laws in your state for use of small amounts of marijuana and maybe crank down those punishments?

JINDAL: Sure, Candy. We've started not just last year, but since I've been governor. And last year, we accelerated that looking to lower those penalties. I agree with the president that we lock up too many people for casual drug use. What I mean by that is that, certainly, non-violent, non-repeat offenders, those that aren't committing other crimes, we should look at treatment and rehabilitation.

I'm not for the legalization. The full legalization of marijuana has been done in Colorado. But certainly, I think that it makes sense. We could use our resources more effectively. We passed some pretty good laws last year. There's more work that we can do there. I do think when it comes to medical marijuana, I've said that I'm open if it's tightly regulated, the legitimate medical purposes.

I do think this, though, on the bigger issue. And so, yes, I agree with the president. We don't need to be locking up people who aren't the dealers, who aren't committing other crimes, especially those who aren't committing other violent crimes, I think they're better uses of our dollars, and I think we can rehabilitate those folks.

But I do think that given all the problems facing our country, there are other issues that are more important, especially when it comes to growing our economy. You know, the president gave his state of the union. And you may remember, Bill Clinton famously said in that previous state of the union the air of big government is over. It turns out that isn't true.

You know, big government is u alive and well and, unfortunately, strangling our economy. So, certainly, let's help folks get rehabilitated and get drug treatment, but, let's also focus on issues that the American people care more about, one going our economy.

CROWLEY: Right. One of the issues I know you are interested in is the Keystone Pipeline. The state department put out -- released a report saying it would have minimal effect on the environment. Is there any reason for the president to oppose it now?

JINDAL: Absolutely not, unless, it's just purely ideological reasons. You know, the reality is that the Canadians, one of our closest allies, wants to help us become more energy independent. And this goes to an absolutely critical issue, cheap, affordable domestic energy is an absolute critical component for us reviving our manufacturing-based economy. Here in Louisiana, we've got tens of billions of dollars capital investment coming in to our state, thanks to the fracking and thanks to the natural gas boom we see going on in our state and across other states. We can see the same kind of investment across the country, in the steel industry, the fertilizer industry, the plastics industry. We can make things and we can bring investment and jobs -- good paying jobs home from other countries.

You know, the president -- if we're interested in good paying blue collar -- a lot of these, by the way, in private union jobs, if we're interested in good paying jobs, affordable energy has to be a part of it. The president, you know, he's been ambiguous on fracking that sent mixed messages on that. When you look at -- I know he takes credit for the domestic energy boom, but the reality is a lot of that's happening on private lands, not federal lands.

This is a no-brainer. It should have been made. This decision should have been made a long time ago. The Canadians are going to go and get this oil, Candy. The question is whether they sell it to us or the Chinese.


JINDAL: I'd rather it come here to America.

CROWLEY: Two quick questions as my time runs out. First of all, the man who succeeded you as head of the Republican Governors Association, Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey. New accusations as yet unproven out against the government. This is -- it is clear that there are going to be these sorts of stories as this investigation plays out. Should the governor step down from his Republican Governors Association chairmanship?

JINDAL: No, Candy. Here, look, I think the press doesn't quite understand how RGA works.


JINDAL: With an RGA, no one governor is more important than the other. You're right. I was chairman last year. I'm vice chairman this year. Chris is chairman this year. That doesn't really matter. What really matters is the RGA is a place for our governors to come together to discuss policy --

CROWLEY: Well, that's hardly ringing endorsement of Chris Christie. I know that there's -- what they're doing, but he runs and I just wonder if you -- you know, and he raises money and helps people raise money in their states. You think he ought to stay there?

JINDAL: Yes. Yes. I don't think he should step down. I think he should stay there. I think what's more important, though, is we got some great governors in states like Florida, South Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, all across the state doing great things. We got 36 governors races. RGA is not about one governor. It's about all 29 of these governors, all 36 races. Republican governors are doing a great job on a private sector economy. That's what's really important.

CROWLEY: And finally, governor, in Louisiana, the last I saw, there will be the execution of a man next week by lethal injection. He was found guilty of murdering his six-year-old step-son.

You are using in this lethal injection the same two chemicals that are now under scrutiny because of an Ohio execution where the man being executed was -- we were told it took ten minutes for him to die, writhing in convulsion. Are you comfortable with this execution going forward with this method of killing him?

JINDAL: Candy, three things. One, we're actually in front of federal court. We've submitted the two-drug protocol. A federal judge where in front of federal court district court as well as United States Supreme Court. So, the judge will have to decide whether we're allowed to proceed to fulfill the court's verdict. I will say this, we are looking at and we will likely support legislation in this session to give the Department of Corrections more options.

We have obviously -- we actually have a different protocol. We weren't able to use. We weren't able to get that drug, a one-drug protocol. So, we're likely to go to the legislators this year to ask them to give the Department of Corrections other options. Like many states, we're not always able to find and secure these drugs.

And so, we're going to go back to the legislature and say give us additional options. Where we stand with the execution that's coming up, we're in front of federal court. The Department of Corrections feels confident making make that case to the judge that this is a fairway to carry out the verdict of the court.

CROWLEY: Governor Bobby Jindal, I have to have a one-word reply from you. Are you going to run for president? Yes, no, or maybe.

JINDAL: Look, Candy, let's win the elections in 2014 first and then let's decide about 2016.


JINDAL: Let's go focus on 36 governors' races and winning the Senate and keeping the House.

CROWLEY: You are no fun, but I really appreciate you joining us, governor. We'll see you next time.

When we return, are Republicans giving up on Chris Christie and are Democrats giving up on the House in 2014? Our panel is next.



CROWLEY: Joining me around the table, former Alabama congressman Arthur Davis, Ron Brownstein, CNN's senior political analyst and former White House communications director, Anita Dunn. OK. Mr. Christie. Let me just try to tell the latest chapter in this saga. First of all, this was in Times Square, I believe, yesterday at some sort of NBA -- or NFL festivities -- wrong sport.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There is a football game coming up.

CROWLEY: I love - I mean don't love this picture but I think this pretty much says a thousand words here. And we also had, when he went to speak, there was audible booing from the crowds.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Chris Christie. Governor?

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Good afternoon, everybody. You've already heard enough speeches. Enough speeches of the same thing.


CROWLEY: Booing in Times Square is not an unknown thing. I mean (INAUDIBLE) exactly. And then - I mean all of the papers. Because what we have is a once-friend -- ally, somebody or other, who's now saying, actually, Chris Christie knew about the traffic jam during the traffic jam. He has said, no, I didn't. Whew! OK. That's where we are now.

BROWNSTEIN: Look this is a big deal. I mean Chris Christie in many ways I think was looking like the strongest potential general election nominee for Republicans, arguably the front-runner in the primary in 2016 and he is being significantly hurt. Now whether it is fatal or not will depend obviously on future facts. But what's going on now with David Wildstein underscores I think the big danger here. Which is there are multiple investigations under way at both the legislative and the criminal level and there is going to be a drip, drip, drip. And to the (INAUDIBLE) those drips erode the original story the he put out so forcefully in that press conference, obviously extremely dangerous.

ARTUR DAVIS, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Candy, one cautionary note. In my previous life I spent a lot of time writing letters like this and parsing letters like the one Wildstein's lawyer wrote a few days ago, a letter by a lawyer that purports to make a statement about what a client might say? A lot of "ifs" there. This will drag on legally for a long time will (ph) make the political point. Chris Christie's strength four or five months ago was that he seemed to be, by far, the one Republican who would put Democrats on the defensive. Even Hillary Clinton. Today, Chris Christie is a guy who's embattled.


And given the fact that he's never going to be the favorite of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, the electability mantra, the electability rationale is being destroyed and I'm not sure that he has the political wherewithal to withstand his strongest rationale --

CROWLEY: Wow. You guys are dire here. ANITA DUNN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: No. I'm going to be equally dire. And happy Super Bowl Sunday, Candy. Here's Christie's problem with this entire story, OK, which is his entire image coming out of Sandy, coming out of his management of his first term was of someone who gets things done, rolls up his sleeves, really is a leader, transcends party lines to some extent in a state that's, you know, a Democratic state. So even if he didn't know anything before -- and, you know, time will tell, as we all know. But even if he did know anything before, for four days his constituents were stuck in traffic. It was a big news story up there and he didn't ask? He didn't do what the port authority ultimately did, which is pick up the phone and say, move those barricades out, get those people moving? And then after it was over he didn't ask how it happened. So the rationale was kind of his claim to being a governing kind of guy has been totally undercut by this.

BROWNSTEIN: It is worth noting that even before the letter from David Wildstein and his attorney, earlier this week there was a serious story in the "New York Times" about the other track of what we're talking about-- the Hoboken mayor and the flood relief, showing e-mails about the administration requiring a lobbyist for the project to be present in discussions about the flood relief in the city. You know, you were talking about the Tea Party wing. Obviously Chris Christie was never going to be the favorite of the Tea Party wing. They have lots of auditioners for that spot, whether Ted Cruz or Rand Paul. But for this kind of managerial upscale establishment wing of the party, essentially the wing that nominated Romney, they don't really have a lot of choices at the moment if Chris Christie is disabled. Jeb Bush would be somebody that's popular. He hasn't shown an interest. Paul Ryan could fill those shoes potentially but most of the vibrations has been that he is not interested. It's really unclear who fills these shoes If Christie is left in the position where he either can't run at all or can't effectively (ph).

DAVIS: Ron, to that point you mention Paul Ryan. That's a name worth dwelling on. If you talk to the establishment wing of the party -- the people who finance the party, the people who unified behind Romney, people who tried to draft Christie three years ago, the name they are talking about is Paul Ryan. They see him as someone who's been vetted and that he's running for vice president. They see him as someone who does have a certain amount of stature, and they believe that the Ryan plan didn't exactly drive the debate of the 2012 campaign so therefore he can overcome that. Paul Ryan is getting a lot of steam in a lot of different circles in the Republican Party.


DUNN: There's a problem.

CROWLEY: None of you mentioned Marco Rubio. I want to -- let me move on because we have to go to your side and say, so if you're a House Democrat in a swing district and you wake up to "Politico" with this headline, what exactly are you thinking? This was about how the money people and some strategist think. Democrats are like, see the House? We're never going to win that. Which I think everybody knew but to say it out loud? DUNN: Candy, I would just say that I don't think that, you know, if I'm waking up in the morning and I call Steve Israel, I don't think Steve Israel is going to say we've ceded the House. The DCCC is actually outraised the NRCC and that's quite unusual especially because they are the minority party, they don't have the advantages of actually controlling the House of Representatives. That you have a number of seats out there that I think potentially become very contested. And as we saw it in 2012 when, as you recall, Democrats were supposed to lose seats in the Senate and instead ended up picking them up. It is highly unpredictable and these races often come down in many cases the quality of the candidates.

CROWLEY: It is. But doesn't it (INAUDIBLE) about the Senate than it does about the --

DAVIS: One telltale sign -- Virginia cd-10. A very close district on paper. Congressman Frank Wolf announced he was not going to run again but Democrats can't recruit a top-flight candidate for a district that ought to be an easy pick-up. So this is verifying what Democratic would-be candidates are learning around the country.

BROWNSTEIN: There's enough money in politics you don't have to completely write off anything in order to focus on the others. But there is no question that from the beginning 2014 was going to be tough for Democrats. The reality is, as voting patterns have become more polarized by age and race, the mid-term electorate is older whiter than the presidential electorate (INAUDIBLE) over 60 percent of whites over 45 are voting Republican. This is always going to be an uphill climb for the Democrats. When you look the Senate battlefield, you know, the seven Romney-won seats with Democratic senators are really the key political battlefield of 2014 whether Democrats can defend them and those also tend to be with the exceptions of North Carolina and Louisiana, most of them are older and whiter states. So that is going to be a very tough road for Democrats and they are going to need really every resource they can to try to hold on, especially because Obama's approval rating (INAUDIBLE) of 45 percent -


CROWLEY: Is that why the president's State of the Union address was so heavy on women and minimum wage? I think (INAUDIBLE) try to drive out his base as well as he could.

DUNN: But let me just say that those issues - those issues that he raised in the State of the Union particularly around workplace issues, particularly around women in the workplace are not actually Democratic issues. Those are issues that really go across the board and speak to what Ron was talking about, which is kind of people who are working to try to get ahead, families. Those are family issues. And I think as you will see the White House will be spending a lot of time on them this year. They have a huge summit planned in May. And those are - they are family issues.

DAVIS: But here's the irony. I agree with you working families -- working class families is a big political issue which should transcend party lines. What was the president's big idea on working class families? Appointing a committee. I agree with you that the minimum wage is an important issue. What was the president's big idea on the minimum wage? Let's raise it for what? People who are working in the Senate and House cafeteria? There weren't a lot of big ideas that matched the president's rhetoric in the State of the Union, much less the grandiose vision in the inaugural.

CROWLEY: I got 20 seconds, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: Well look, it may -- you may see a Mary Landrieu or Mark Pryor survive one more cycle but the long term trend is the Senate seats are going the same way the states vote in presidential elections. The Democrats are going to have a hard time holding places like Arkansas, West Virginia, Louisiana overtime as we see more polarization of the electorate along age and racial lines.

CROWLEY: I got to stop you all there but come back. Artur Davis, Ron Brownstein, Anita Dunn, appreciate your time.

The Olympic kick off later this week and 6,000 athletes from 85 countries are arriving in Sochi, along with their families, tourists and scores of international media. Fears of a terrorist attack have many on edge so is president Obama worried? That's next.




SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?


WYDEN: It does not.

CLAPPER: Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly.


CROWLEY: That was an exchange last March between Senator Ron Wyden and James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence. Less than three months later Edward Snowden leaked classified documents directly contradicting Clapper. This week a bipartisan group of congressman wrote president Obama demanding Clapper's resignation. More now with the president.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: When your director of national intelligence General James Clapper testified before Congress and said -- before the Snowden leaks that there was no mass surveillance going on. A lot of Democrats in the Senate think that he was not honest. He said later that it was the least untruthful answer he could give. I know that you have faith in Clapper. I know that you believe that these programs protect the American people. But I can't believe that you weren't disappointed by his answer, because least untruthful is not a phrase I remember hearing on the campaign trail.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that Jim Clapper himself would acknowledge, and has acknowledged, that he should have been more careful about how he responded. His concern was that he had a classified program that he couldn't talk about and he was at an open hearing in which he was asked, he was prompted, to disclose the program and so he felt that he was caught between a rock and a hard place.

TAPPER: So you understand what he did?

OBAMA: Subsequently I think he's acknowledged that he could have handled it better. He's spoken to Mr. Wyden personally. I think the broader point is that everybody that I have dealt with in our intelligence community is really working hard to try to do a very tough job to protect us when there are constant threat streams coming at us, but doing so in a way that's consistent with the law and consistent with our constitution, consistent with our privacy rights. I am actually confident that we can continue to have the best intelligence service in the world, but win back the confidence of both the American people, as well as folks overseas. But it is going to take some time. It is going to take some work. Partly because the technology has just moved so quickly that the discussions that need to be had had didn't happen fast enough, didn't happen on the front end. And I think that we have the opportunity now to move forward in a way that is going to make a difference.


TAPPER: A lot of members of Congress and not just like the fringe ones -- the ones who are serious lawmakers have said to CNN that they would not let their family members go to Sochi. That they are not confident it will be safe. You see all the intelligence.

OBAMA: I do.

TAPPER: I know that you're not going. I know Michele and Sasha and Malia are not going. But if close friends of yours or close friends of the girls said, hey, we're thinking about going, what would you tell them?

OBAMA: I would tell them that I believe that Sochi is safe and that there are always some risks in these large, international gatherings. I'm always going to feel even better if it's inside the United States because then we have full control over what happens, but the Russian authorities understand the stakes here. They understand that there are potential threats that are out there and we are coordinating with them. We've looked at their plans. I think we have a good sense of the security that they're putting in place to protect not only the athletes themselves but also visitors there. So what I would say is, is that if you want to go to the Olympics you should go to the Olympics. You know, we're not discouraging in any way Americans from participating in what is just always an amazing, wonderful event. In these large settings like this, there are always some risks involved. And I don't want to completely discount those. But as we've seen here in the United States, you know, at the Boston Marathon, I mean there were some risks if you have lone wolves or small cells of folks who are trying to do some damage and I think that it's very important for anybody who's attending the Olympics to get in contact with our state department, get on the Web site, look at what kinds of just prudent measures you should take, that wouldn't necessarily be unique to Sochi, that is something we would advise any time you're involved in a big, international event like this.


CROWLEY: The Sochi games begin in five days. We wish all Olympians safe and successful games. Next up, President Obama is forced to pick between Denver and Seattle for tonight's big game and if you thought he punted a question or two already, wait until you see this.



CROWLEY: President Obama is a huge sports fan, so Jake Tapper wanted to get his thoughts about today's super bowl and the controversy surrounding one of its players.


TAPPER: A big game this Sunday.


TAPPER: The Super Bowl. I wondered what you made of the Richard Sherman kerfuffle, his sideline rants, the pushback, the pushback to the pushback. His argument that people calling him a thug are just using a more polite version of the "n" word. What did you think of the whole thing?

OBAMA: Well first of all I think he's a great cornerback who made a great play...

TAPPER: Yes. No question.

OBAMA: ... and won the game for the Seahawks. So you have to give him credit for that. He is, obviously, a very smart guy and wonderful story, the fact that he came up from Compton and went to Stanford, has helped other people graduate and go to college from his old school, and my sense is he's taken a page out of Muhammad Ali's playbook. I think he said that explicitly which is, this is a good way to get attention. In fact, you know, Ali said he got his shtick from wrestlers he used to watch.

TAPPER: So it's just that tradition?

OBAMA: And I think it's part of that tradition of, you know, let me get some attention and obviously it's worked. I suspect that he's going to have a lot more endorsement contracts and I think more jersey sales after that, but it's going to be a great game. You've got, Peyton Manning who maybe has had the greatest season that any quarterback's ever had and to watch him go against a team that is known for their defense and particularly their passing defense, I think means there's going to be some excitement there.

TAPPER: I'm going to give you a choice, just pick one.


TAPPER: I'll give you two, Hillary versus Biden or Broncos versus Seahawks. You have to tell me -- you to pick one and give me the winner.

OBAMA: Well, I think that Broncos/Seahawks -

TAPPER: So you're going with that one.

OBAMA: Surprisingly enough. I think it's going to be a lot like the Seahawks/49ers game. I think it's going to come down to the last play and in the end day of the day -- I'm not going to pick it because I don't want to offend any --


OBAMA: Great cities who are participating.

TAPPER: You'll go with the Hillary/Biden one then? No (ph). You're going to opt out of both?

OBAMA: I'm too smart for that, Jake. Come on man. I love the state of Washington and I love the state of Colorado.

TAPPER: You're not running for anything anymore. You won them both. All right, I tried. I tried.



CROWLEY: We here at STATE OF THE UNION are rooting for a good game. Thank you so much for watching. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. Head to for analysis and extras. If you missed any part of today's show find us on iTunes.

Fareed Zakaria, GPS, starts now.