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State of the Union

The Obama Doctrine In Doubt; Has Obama's Foreign Policy Failed?; Syria's Civil War Continues Despite Global Outcry; International Community Fails To Intimidate Putin; Interview with Hanan Ashrawi

Aired April 27, 2014 - 12:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: No trade deal with Japan. Putin stays put, and Israeli-Palestinian peace talks fall apart.


CROWLEY (voice over): Today when the world's only superpower talks, does anyone listen?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of my jobs as president is to worry about a bunch of different problems at the same time and not just to pick and choose which problems that I have the luxury to worry about.

CROWLEY: Obama foreign policy, a conversation with the President's deputy national security adviser, Tony Blinken. And coming up empty, a U.S. effort to rejuvenate Middle East peace talks failed nine months after an optimistic beginning.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Our objective will be to achieve a final status agreement over the course of the next nine months.

OBAMA: We didn't anticipate that we're going to solve it during the course of a six or nine-month negotiation.

CROWLEY: We talked to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and PLO executive committee member, Hanan Ashrawi.

Then, our political panel studies the nuisances of campaigning for or against Obamacare.



CROWLEY: President Obama is in Malaysia, part of his four nation tour of Asia. He has wanted to increase U.S. focus on that part of the world since taking office and other hot spots from Ukraine to the Middle East keep getting in way of his foreign policy agenda. Joining me now, the president's deputy national security adviser, Tony Blinken. Thanks for joining us -



CROWLEY: Looking at this week, no trade deal with Japan which the U.S. is pushing very hard for. Israeli-Palestinian negotiations where the secretary of state has focused intensely for nine months fall part. And Mr. Putin still has his troops sitting on Ukraine.

If you look at this week, what you're hearing from critics is that the U.S. power to sway the events of the world has declined. Regardless of whether you blame President Obama for that or whether you say, it's the nature of the world, it's how it now works. Would you agree with that premise?

BLINKEN: I would (ph). And I think this week actually demonstrates it. First, look what's happened in Asia with the president leading the effort to rebalance our relationships in Asia. All the different lines of effort that we've been working on over the last five years, strengthening our alliances with the core partners, building the institutions in Asia, developing trade and commerce so that we open up markets to Americans, resituating our defense posture.

Every single line of effort we are stronger now than we were five years ago as well as working the relationship with China. At the same time we have global responsibilities. The president was advancing this agenda in Asia at the same time as you said we had Ukraine.

Russia a week ago signed on to a roadmap to deescalate the crisis in Ukraine. Unfortunately it hasn't lived up to the commitments it made. So the president in Asia convened by phone all of the senior European leaders and got them to agree to a very strong statement for the G-7 and this week additional sanctions put the pressure on Russia.

CROWLEY: So there will be -- and I want to talk about Ukraine in a minute but I first want to follow up and say, look, if you take the broader view and you look at Assad in Syria still in power years after the president said, this guy has got to go, if you look at the Egyptians who say two coups over initial U.S. objections during the Obama administration, the E.U. was not initially on board with some of these sanctions. Even Britain failed to come with the U.S. in some of its efforts. So it just looks as though the ability to persuade allies has become less and less. Are those not failures?

BLINKEN: I don't think that's the case, Candy. I think today we saw the president announce a major basing (ph) agreement in the Philippines that is --

CROWLEY: But those aren't the problems of the moment. I think that's what I'm trying to say. With Syria and we wanted to - you know, there was an effort to get Britain to go along with us into Syria, and Britain didn't want to go. That's our closest ally. It just seems, as we move on to the big problems. I'm not saying, you know, no forward movement here. I'm just saying when you look at the big problems that we face.

BLINKEN: Take Syria. When we were - when we were focused on Syria, it was to get the chemical weapons out of the country. As we speak today, 92 percent of the chemical weapons have been removed. CROWLEY: Still killing people at will, right? Who (ph) is winning?

BLINKEN: Yes. Absolutely. The humanitarian - the humanitarian situation is bad and the standoff with Assad is bad.

CROWLEY: Is it still U.S. policy that we want Assad out? Does that still --

BLINKEN: Assad has forfeited any right he has to leading his country. And it's clear that there is no way that Syria can find peace and stability with Assad in power.

CROWLEY: So U.S. policy is still we want him gone?

BLINKEN: We're working with other countries. We're working with the moderate opposition in Syria to build the pressure on Assad as we speak.

CROWLEY: I want to move you to Ukraine. All western allies are on board with new sanctions, is that correct?

BLINKEN: That's correct.

CROWLEY: As a result of those phone calls.

BLINKEN: That's correct.

CROWLEY: What is the thing that's going to hurt president Putin the most?

BLINKEN: Look, step back and look at what's already happened as a result of the actions Russia has taken and the steps we've taken in response led by President Obama. The economic isolation of Russia is growing every single day. Its financial markets are down 22 percent since the beginning of the year.

CROWLEY: But you don't want to punish the people of Russia. You want Putin to move away from the Ukraine border and he's still there.

BLINKEN: He has a very hard choice to make, Candy. He had a compact with his people and the compact is this, I'll deliver economic growth for you if you remain politically compliant. Right now he's not delivering growth. And the pressure that we're putting on him in coordination with other countries around the world is forcing that choice on him.

CROWLEY: It may be, but as you know, his popularity at least according to some polls and let's face it Gallop has not been (ph) in there (ph) so we're not totally sure. But we're seeing his popularity goes up because it's seen as, hey, the west is trying to push us around again. So the question remains, it may be hurting Russia, but it doesn't seem to be moving Putin. So in the new round of sanctions, what will move Putin?

BLINKEN: As of -- starting this week, in coordination with our allies and partners we'll be exerting additional pressure on the people closest to him, the companies that they control, the defense industry. All of this is going to have an impact --

CROWLEY: What's an additional pressure? You're (ph) going to freeze their accounts?

BLINKEN: Well stay tuned. We'll see in the coming days as we roll out these sanctions. But the point is this, Candy, Crimea is already becoming a dead weight on Russia. You're right, in the initial moments there's nationalism, and that boosts his popularity. But they are spending billions and billions of dollars to prop up Crimea. At some point the people are not going to like that. All of this is creating a dynamic in which what Putin has promised to his people which is growth and prosperity cannot be delivered because --

CROWLEY: How long before you think it's going to hurt Putin himself? Is there something in these new sanctions that goes directly at him?

BLINKEN: We have to be deliberate about it. We have to be determined about it.

CROWLEY: Does he have bank accounts we can freeze?

BLINKEN: There are lots of things that are going on around him. People who are around him, who matter to him will going to be affected by these sanctions. But more than that is the Russian economy. The growth projections for the Russian economy as a result of these sanctions are heading in -- to below one percent. Again, over time this has a significant impact because he can't deliver what he promised to his people.

CROWLEY: Is time of the essence here? Do you need him to do it in a week or two weeks? Are you willing to wait him out and to exert further pressure on the Russian economy?

BLINKEN: We need to be deliberate about this and we need to do this in coordination with our partners. What we're also doing, Candy, that is very important is increasing support about Ukraine. Over the next week --

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about that because I want to - because I know that you're giving non-lethal aid and have given nonlethal aid and upped it almost every week it seems. What they would like is lethal aid. They would like weapons, armaments of some sort. Have you ruled out sending any lethal weaponry to the Ukraine government?

BLINKEN: Two things. We're focusing on where we can be most effective, the economic assistance. Over the next week, the IMF program is going to go forward. And we're looking at, all told, between the IMF, between us, between the World Bank and other countries, $37 billion over two years. That's going to have a dramatic impact on strengthening --

CROWLEY: How about the weaponry they want? Because I have to -- I want to read you something that the Ukrainian prime minister said which was that he believes that Russia is trying to start World War III. You cannot win World War III if the western allies, including the U.S., have said, we're not coming in and you can't get lethal weapons.

BLINKEN: The vice president was in Ukraine just a week ago. He announced additional, non-lethal security assistance to Ukraine. We've been providing that assistance. We've also worked with Ukraine since before this crisis to help professionalize their military. But here is the bottom line. We could send weapons to Ukraine. It wouldn't make a difference in terms of their ability to stand up to the Russians but what makes a difference --

CROWLEY: They can't (ph) win, but they might be able to do more than they're able to do now.

BLINKEN: What would make a difference, what will make a difference over time is professionalizing their military. We've been working on that before the crisis. We'll have a program to do that with the new government when it comes into office after May 25th.

CROWLEY: Two quick questions. Last one on Ukraine. Now pro-Russian activists in eastern Ukraine are holding western observers from a lot of different countries. Does that change your calculation at all?

BLINKEN: Well I think it just underscores that what Russia is doing in Ukraine directly or through its proxies is brutal. It's cynical and it's dangerous.

CROWLEY: But it doesn't change your approach?

BLINKEN: No. It only adds to the fact that we need to take further action. That's exactly what the president worked to do with our European partners on Friday.

CROWLEY: And if there is unity between Fatah and Hamas and they go ahead with this unity government that they're talking about, will the U.S. halt aid to the Palestinians?

BLINKEN: What president Abbas announced the other day was an intent to work over time to get some kind of unity government. We've heard that before. Let's see what happens. Let's see if they actually deliver on it. They haven't in the past. But our bottom line is very clear. There are clear principles that any Palestinian government has to adhere to. Recognize Israel, renounce terrorism, respect past agreements. Any government has to do that.

CROWLEY: You would consider cutting off aid?

BLINKEN: If the government didn't do that, yes.

CROWLEY: Tony Blinken, thank you for joining us this morning. We always appreciate your time.

BLINKEN: Thanks very much, Candy.

CROWLEY: When we return, President Obama's hope for Middle East peace suffer a major breakdown. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joins me. He's next.


CROWLEY: Joining me now is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Prime Minister, as always we thank you for being here. I want to start with the fact that Israel is involved in this annual commemoration this day of the holocaust. In advance of that, Palestinian President Abbas issued a statement calling the holocaust, and I quote here, "the most heinous crime in the modern era." He expressed sympathies for the victims of the holocaust. What do you make of that?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Well, I try to reconcile that with the fact that he embraced just a few days ago the Hamas terrorist organization that denies the holocaust and openly call for a new extermination of the six million Jews of Israel. So President Abbas can't have it both ways.

He can't say the holocaust was terrible, but at the same time embraced those who deny the holocaust and seek to perpetrate another destruction of the Jewish people. I think probably what he's trying to do is damage control. I think what President Abbas is trying to do is to placate western public opinion that understands that he delivered a terrible blow to the peace process by embracing these Hamas terrorists. I think he's trying to wiggle his way out of it.

CROWLEY: He is also quoted in today's "Jerusalem Post" as talking about this new unity government with Hamas and saying, "the government reports to me and follows my policies. I recognize Israeli and so will the government. I renounce violence and terrorism and I recognize international legitimacy and so will the government."

So essentially he's saying this is still going to be my government. It still is going to follow what I have observed and what I have said. What do you make of that, and do you believe him? And if you do, is it enough to bring you back to the table?

NETANYAHU: Look, I will not, as the prime minister of Israel negotiate with a government that is backed by the Hamas terror organization committed to our destruction. Neither would you. You designate Hamas, the U.S., as a terrorist organization. It sends thousands of rockets into Israel. It sends scores of suicide bombers. It praised the murder of a father of five. The other week on a way to a Passover dinner -- they praised Bin Laden when he was alive as a holy warrior and condemned the United States when you killed Bin Laden.

This is one of the most preeminent terrorist organizations of our time. Obviously the U.S. abhors it, as we do. Nobody expects us to negotiate with a government that is backed by it. Now the statement that we'll (ph) - I put forward -- even though I'm in national unity with Hamas, I'm putting forward in the front office, you know, more and respectable people. We know that cabinet. It's the back office/front office cabinet.

In the back office is where the mafia sits and in the front office is respectable people. We're not going to buy that. We won't negotiate with a government backed by Hamas unless Hamas changed its position. Unless Hamas said, I'm willing to recognize Israel. But Hamas, including after the pact with Abbas, is saying the very opposite. It's saying Israel is going to be destroyed. We'll continue to the terror campaign against Israel.. This is the partner that President Abbas has now joined. And I call on President Abbas to tear up your pact with Hamas, recognize the Jewish state and come back to a real peace process.

CROWLEY: One of the criticisms, Mr. Prime Minister, has been that prior to this, when you were dealing with Abbas, you said, look, I don't know who I'm supposed to negotiate with. There's Hamas and then there's Abbas and Fatah. So now there's a unity government and you still don't want to talk to them. So there's criticism here that this was an excuse for you to walk away --

NETANYAHU: Sorry, candy. Whoa.

CROWLEY: Go ahead.

NETANYAHU: No, Candy. No. I'm sorry. I heard that. I hear people write that. In fact, it's the very opposite. I said right from the start, I said, look, I could wait until President Abbas recognizes -- represents the entire Palestinian people. But in this case we'll wait until eternity and we won't have peace.

So I chose deliberately, openly, specifically and exquisitely to negotiate with that part of the Palestinian people that said it was willing to make peace with Israel. I said we're not going to try to include the other part that seeks our extermination. That's what I did. I've been very consistent on this.

Now that he has joined them, I say this, look, unity for peace is good. Unity with the Hamas that seeks to exterminate Israel, the opposite of peace, is bad. I've always been consistent on this. I negotiate with those who are willing to make peace with my country. I will not negotiate with those who seek to exterminate peace with my country.

CROWLEY: Now I want to bring in Hanan Ashrawi. She is a top legislator in the Palestinian government. Thank you for joining us this morning.

First, it cannot come as a surprise to you...


CROWLEY: That Netanyahu has said I am not going to negotiate with a government that is backed by Hamas. That can't be a surprise.

ASHRAWI: No, it is a surprise, frankly speaking. But I expected him to find any pretext, any excuse, to scuttle the talks, which is something he's been doing from the beginning.

He has escalated settlement activities, the land theft, the siege of Jerusalem, the siege of Gaza. He has reneged on his agreements and obligations. I mean, he's even escalated violence, he's tried everything to destroy the talks and now he's clutching at the pretext that the Palestinians are trying to reach unity, and that's something he doesn't like, because he wants to pick and choose his counterparts.

By that same logic I can say I don't want to talk to the Likud, Netanyahu, or Naftali Bennett, or Lieberman. I would much rather talk with people who don't want to take all of Palestine, who are not busy launching attacks on Gaza or the West Bank, who are not killing Palestinians daily, I want to talk to Zahava Gal-On of Meretz.

This is not how you make peace. Even when President Abbas reached out and tried to show human commiseration and sympathy, he very cynically, you know, slapped him down. This is ridiculous.

If Netanyahu is serious, he can abide by international law and the requirements of peace.

CROWLEY: Now he also said in that interview, as you heard, that if Hamas would recognize Israel and renounce terrorism and renounce violence, that he would come back to the table. Do you think Hamas will do that?

ASHRAWI: Well, Hamas is not negotiating. What we're setting up is a government of independent professionals to deliver services, to build institutions and to oversee elections full stop. The PLO is the body that represents the Palestinians and that negotiates on their behalf and that is empowered to sign agreements on their behalf.

So, the political address is not this government, but it is the PLO that remains the one body empowered to do that.

In that sense, nobody's asking him to talk to Hamas or even to the government. And we know that the government is set up of independents.

I think this is really a very specious argument. And he's trying to find ways out. And demonizing the Palestinians and pulling out constantly terrorism and denial of the Holocaust and so on as the reasons why he doesn't want to talk to the Palestinians, this is really quite misleading.

We want serious, substantive negotiations and that's what is called upon. And John Kerry has really tried, has exerted enormous efforts. Nobody doubts his sincerity, dedication, tenacity trying very hard to have talks.


ASHRAWI: Unfortunately he didn't get much cooperation.

CROWLEY: And I want to ask you about the U.S. role in a minute.

But first I want to read you something from a spokesman for Hamas which came, I believe, after President Abbas put out the statement saying, this will be our government, it still recognizes the progress that's been made with Israel, recognizes Israel and wants a peaceful negotiations.

But this is what the Hamas spokesman said in response to that, "the recognition of Israel by the president of the Palestinian Authority, Abbas, is not new. What is important is that Hamas will not, and will never, recognize Israel." With that statement, what...

ASHRAWI: It doesn't have to.

CROWLEY: I'm sorry, go ahead.

ASHRAWI: I said it doesn't have to because you don't go to individual parties and factions and ask them to recognize countries, only countries recognize countries. The president represents Palestine. We recognized Israel in 1993. And with signed agreements between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin, and that's it.

And the PLO and the president are doing the negotiations and they represent the country of Palestine.

If we, again, by the same token go back and ask every single Israeli party to accept our rights and to accept the two-state solution, we will find a very, very slim minority to talk to.

We do not negotiate with parties. You do not ask for recognitions from -- this is -- this is all -- these are all very flimsy excuses.

I think it's time we deal with substance and with behavior.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about the U.S. reaction. We had a national security adviser to the president here this morning, and he hinted at two things. First of all, that this unity government has been tried before and might not happen after all and the U.S. is taking a wait and see, but also said that the U.S. certainly would reconsider aid to the Abbas government if indeed this union takes place.

Your reaction to both of those?

ASHRAWI: Well, that is extremely unfortunate, again. I mean, congress is very busy trying to prove that they can be more loyal to Israel than to the U.S., unfortunately. They even give us power over the U.S. by saying they will leave any agency that we join and the UN agency that we join, which means that they gave us power to isolate the U.S.

But anyway, I think that the issue is not Hamas. Again, the Americans know that the administration knows that. The issue is whether we have a political address (ph) capable of representing all Palestinians. Either you want to make peace with part of the Palestinians in the West Bank, a few people that you choose or in the West Bank, and Jerusalem including Jerusalem and Gaza. And the 5.5 million Palestinians in exile, we need to make peace with everybody.

But if you insist on a partial peace with part of the people that you like, then it means that you're not going to get anywhere. And this a peace that will not stand.

CROWLEY: Hanan Ashrawi, as always, we appreciate you coming on. Hope to see you again, thanks. This note, we did invite Palestinian authority President Abbas to appear on the program and hope he joins us soon.

But when we return from the Middle East to Europe to Asia, my next guest will help us decipher the Obama doctrine.


CROWLEY: I am joined by Stephen Sastanovich, professor at Columbia University and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relation and also here Thomas Pickering, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia. Let's do the 50,000 foot view here first and that is after this week, which no Tokyo, no agreement with Japan, Putin continues to ignore us, various things happening, not in the way envisioned. There are some criticism that Obama foreign policy is failing. Speak to that for me.

STEPHEN SESTANOVICH, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: The administration is trying to pivot from the preoccupations of its first term, which were cleaning up inherited problems to --

CROWLEY: By that you mean wars?

SESTANOVICH: Yes. The president came in thinking his agenda was deal with Iraq, Afghanistan, global international and economic crisis. A second-term president, who has that same responsibility has to deal with new challenges once he's put those problems behind him. And the Obama administration is trying to pivot from that first set to the new challenges. What it -- the administrations making that pivot tend to discover is that the logic of pulling back is very --

CROWLEY: Spending more time on the home front?

SESTANOVICH: Absolutely. The president's phrase is nation building here at home. That's clearly his number one agenda item. The administrations discover that that makes it harder to get their voice to carry, to get their way, in dealing with other problems. And that's the tension that they're trying to overcome right now.

CROWLEY: And Ambassador Pickering, I want to read you something that Stephen wrote recently and ask you about it. This was in "New York Times" op-ed in February. "No American president has ever begun a retrenchment and then as new challenge arose found the path back to greater activism. Can Barack Obama be the first? He'd be making history." Are there sort of aggressive or active ways that the president can make this pivot and make history?

THOMAS PICKERING, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Of course, Candy. But there a couple of things here that I think are the background to this pivot if indeed it is a pivot. One is that you just mentioned, and Steve agrees, that there is a dominance of domestic issues in the priorities of this administration, which we shouldn't forget. I don't think there's necessarily all bad.

But I do think it has tended to take away from a focus on operationalizing the president's speeches, if I can put it this way, on foreign policy issues and it didn't begin with the challenges of the second administration. We have to go back and look at perhaps the Cairo speech and see, in fact, how that unfortunately fell short.

But the second piece is very important. No president in history hauls commanded all foreign policy questions in his own way. The cold war was very hard. People understood that things weren't going to work out. We had East Berlin. We had Budapest. We had Prague back in the '50s and '60s where because of the dominance of the Soviet Union in a military way of those particular pieces of territory there was no military answer.

The third piece is that we've tried military, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they have not turned out to be simply splendid. There are real faults in being able to believe that going to war is the answer to all foreign policy problems. The president inherited, as Steve said, and I agree with him on this, a very difficult and I think very trying course.

So we're know in a situation where diplomacy, where patience, where the ability to build leverage, both through smart power and where it's necessary to reinforce military on the ground or all things that have to come.

CROWLEY: So let me turn you to, then, sort of the headliner now, which is Ukraine. Is there an opportunity there, and it sounds to me listening to the administration that they're looking at this in the long haul. They don't actually expect President Putin to next week pull back?

PICKERING: I think that's right. Let me say that I think President Putin has won some tactical victories. We shouldn't obviously diminish the importance of that. A creeping escalation of tactical victories can add up to a strategic victory. The interesting question is, President Putin, for all of his desires to be a big player in the world, has failed to move the Russian economy in a direction the former soviet economy, in a direction that really makes any sense.


PICKERING: He's failed, in some ways to take himself of being enthralled to the export of hydrocarbons to continue to make his money for his budge.

CROWLEY: Stephen, let me get you on this as the final word. Is there an opportunity in Ukraine for the president to do that pivot you're talking about?

SESTANOVICH: The president is trying to signal to Putin that U.S. and European unity is strengthening. We've had a month in which the United States and Europe have not had even the same people on their sanctions list. The message that the administration is giving out now is, we fixed that. We're going to try to put some pressure on people close to Putin and we're going to do it in a coordinated way. There's no doubt that uncoordinated policy is not going to persuade Putin.

CROWLEY: It's all in sort of the leadership of the west. Stephen Sestanovich and Ambassador Pickering, I want to thank you for joining us today. Way too short. Come back and be our wise guys again. Appreciate it.

Next up, our political panel and wisdom courtesy of Hillary.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: As men and women age, you know, men are tired of the rate. All they want to do is take a deep breath, retire, play golf, they want to you know enjoy life. And women are raring to go.


CROWLEY: We kind of wonder what she meant by that.


CROWLEY: Joining me around the table, S.E. Cupp, host of CNN's "CROSSFIRE." Programming alert, it is scheduled to return to air, Thursday, at 6:30 p.m. Eastern, Matt Bai, national political columnist for Yahoo! News, and CNN political commentator, L.Z. Granderson. Thanks all for joining us.

Hillary Clinton has been out and about, doing lots of speeches, most recently to a Methodist Church in the south talking about her religion. Of course, she was raised Methodist. Talking about -- as we heard in the open or in the tease, how men when they are 60, they've been in the rat race for so long, they're tired, want to play golf, but women are raring to go.

So these are all parsed I'm thinking I'd want a nap but OK. Everything she says is parsed like, isn't this interesting? She's saying that women over 60 have a lot to contribute to society and that women over 60 this and that. I just get the feeling that she's messing with us.

S.E. CUPP, HOST, CNN'S "CROSSFIRE": Seem likes she's having a lot of fun, right? She's not shying away interest moments that she knows we're going to parse. I mean, she knows we're going to pick apart every single thing she says. And whether she's made up her mind or not, is anyone's guess, but she certainly seems to be having fun in the process, leading us down she's sort of rabbit holes.

CROWLEY: Smart politics.

MATT BAI, NATIONAL POLITICAL COLUMNIST, "YAHOO NEWS": Why wouldn't you have fun with this the most fun place to be in politics. Everybody hanging on your every word. You're not a candidate. Not under the scrutiny of a candidate. You just get to like everything you say, you get to, you know, see everybody jump all over it. We create the environment that makes it fun.

Yes, it's good politics. What they're doing, I really think -- I don't think she's made a decision -- I could be wrong -- but I think what they're doing, a larger network, scare everybody else out of the race. They do that it's a more appealing venture for her. She gets air time attention, drops signals and signs.

And if everybody else really does stand down, which I don't think it can happen, but if she can clear the field for someone in Hillary Clinton's position that experienced that, that's a race that's much more appealing.

LZ GRANDERSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: She's already campaigning. I don't think she's playing games. I think she's already continued on with the campaign. I think she's been campaigning since the day that she decided to say I'm going to bow down and let Senator Obama go forward. Since that day she's been campaigning for this moment. I don't think she wants any other woman to claim the mantel of being the first female president. I think that ambition continues to drive her and it should drive her because she's one of most well-qualified candidates for president that we have.

CUPP: She's trying to clear the field. If she doesn't end up running, that actually does Democrats a huge disservice because they've poured all of their money, energy, resources, time, oxygen into Hillary Clinton and that doesn't help someone like Elizabeth Warren or even Joe Biden. If he wants to run and you know, months later.

But what Hillary has to figure out, among other things, is where she fits in with the party today. Her party has moved significantly. Since the last time she ran for president and since the last time she was in the White House. She no longer has to be a Democrat that opposes gay marriage. She must in fact support gay marriage.

She can't be seen as too cozy with banks. She's had a little trouble there. She can't support the Iraq war as she once did. She can't talk about welfare reform the same way her husband did in the '90s. A lot has changed. She's got to be either the new Democrat candidate or kind of the same old same old. A bit of nostalgia throwback to an era where there was less divisiveness.

CROWLEY: I get the sense there's a place setting and she wanted to keep the place still there so everything is a tease because you know you want to. You don't want people to start thinking you're not going to run because that stops all of the people setting up donors.

BAI: I don't think it does a huge disservice. She's got infrastructure gearing up. It's unified behind her. It can be moved to another candidate. It's only 2014. It's not her fault the process starts that day after the last election. So I don't think -- she's a human being. I don't think it's outside her rights to take that time and be deliberative about process --

GRANDERSON: Clearing the field. Anyone seen a poll that says that there's anyone else in a Democratic Party that comes close to who the Democratic voters will want? I haven't seen a single pole of any constituency group.

CUPP: Has anybody had time to think of anybody else with all of the oxygen devoted to Hillary?

GRANDERSON: But the energy has been for Hillary since 2008, since 2009 --

CROWLEY: I want to move you to something else. The president in a news conference recently suggested, when he said, by the way, 8 million people have signed up for the affordable care act, and by the way, yes, I think Democrats ought to run on affordable health care. There's a sense, in the press, that says, yes, Democrats are now seeming to support it a little bit more. What's your take?

BAI: I think they're doing what they have to do. We have to break this down with a little more complexities. We've talked about primary campaigns. Even as a primary campaign or even base election, if you're going to stir up Democratic support, you're going to talk about health care. I think in some states what's interesting, look at Alaska, where the senator is running and proposed concrete ways to change the polling, people don't want to get rid of the law.

They want it fixed. They want it amended. They have an understanding that it's imperfect and I think there's a lane to run for Democrat to make sense because they can't run from the law, saying I support the law, but there are ways to fix it. And I --

CROWLEY: There's ways to support it without saying the words Obamacare.

GRANDERSON: Exactly. If you want to know why more and more Americans are identifying as independents, look at the Tea Party on the Republican and look at Democrats who refuse to support the affordable care act in a much more vigilant way.

Because if you can't support the affordable care act after you voted for the affordable care act and the principles, which is more important, if you can't defend that because it doesn't jive well with polling numbers then you look more wishy washy. People want people who will stand up for principles.

And the affordable care act was put in place because it was immoral to have so many people going bankrupt try to have health care. It is immoral to pay for your insurance and then get sick and have your insurance company kick you off. Those things are worth fighting for.

CROWLEY: Let me play you real quick one of the things cited as an example of Democrats embracing health care. This is Representative Allyson Schwartz sitting congresswoman running for governor of Pennsylvania in a primary.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I worked with President Obama on the affordable care act and getting health coverage to all Americans. It was my legislation that said insurance companies can no longer deny coverage for kids with pre-existing conditions. It's something I'm proud of.


CUPP: Yes "The New York Times" -- CROWLEY: Primary did.

CUPP: Because we're at the stage we're remarking on Democrats who are running with their Democratic president on the signature piece of legislation. That's what we're remarking on. The Hill did a study, among 50 Democrat candidates with active campaign web sites, among 50, only 11 mention Obamacare, the affordable care act or ACA, only 11. This isn't a difficult debate to have. Clearly Democrats have decided that is it not advantageous to wrap their arms around Obamacare when they're in vulnerable states.

CROWLEY: And the truth is, it's far more nuanced than you can fit on a bumper sticker, right? The strategy of running either against or for Obamacare. Republicans have to be careful not to be seen as being opposed to having people keep their insurance even though they have a pre-existing condition or they go through the ceiling. Democrats have to be careful to not seem to be embracing the more unpopular parts of it, mandates or what it's going to do to small businesses.

CUPP: Republicans have to be careful so they're not perceived as having no alternatives. Voters want the next step to the question answered. OK, if you're going to fix it, if you're going to repeal it, tweak it, what do you fill in the blanks?

BAI: Be careful when you don't actually have alternative --

CROWLEY: When they're running on those alternatives --

BAI: You can't run from issues. You just can't. Run for them, run against them. But in the end, you don't as a candidate get to decide what the issues will be. Republicans aren't going to put it away because you don't put it on your web site. To me it's bad politics tO decide you're going to ignore it and hope it goes away.

GRANDERSON: Some of these individuals, they're going to lose anyway, whether --

CUPP: Sorry. Sorry to tell you guys --

GRANDERSON: Because of gerrymandering, it's kind of rigged that way. The people during the midterm elections fall asleep and that's when gerrymandering happens and elections come around and you're like, wait a minute, there's no space for gray, no space for nuance in the election? No, when you weren't paying attention, districts were restructured so that's not a chance for a mix.

CROWLEY: We have to discuss that again next time the census comes out. I can't even remember. We have an election first. LZ Granderson, Matt Bai, S.E. Cupp, thanks for joining us.

"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" starts at the top of the hour. But first Pope Francis bestows a special honor on two of his predecessors, that's next.


CROWLEY: Thanks for watching. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. If you miss us next week, be sure to set your DVR for STATE OF THE UNION. This week, if you missed any part of the show, find us on iTunes, just search STATE OF THE UNION. "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" is next after a check of the headlines.