Return to Transcripts main page

State of the Union

Interview With Iowa Senator Tom Harkin; Interview With White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; Interview With Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar

Aired September 14, 2014 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Another barbaric act by ISIS renews international fury.



DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: They are not Muslims. They are monsters.


CROWLEY: A British aid worker becomes the third Westerner beheaded by ISIS. We talk with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough about a U.S.-led war without U.S. combat troops.

Then, what it will take to bring down ISIS and who can the U.S. trust to join the fight? Two veterans of the war in Iraq, retired Major General Paul Eaton and retired Lieutenant General James Dubik will join us.

Plus, on any given Sunday, it's about football. This week, it's about violence against women. Senator Amy Klobuchar and "Washington Post" sports columnist Mike Wise are here to talk about the NFL's big fumble.

Then, our political roundtable looks into the crystal ball to tell us what Congress will look like next year.

And if you build it, they will come, and this year, no exception.


SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: This is going to be a great shot in the arm for us for both Bill and Hillary to be there.


CROWLEY: Before the 37th and last Iowa steak fry, retiring Senator Tom Harkin on his fund-raising event that's launched many a presidential dream and the Democrats dreaming this year.


Good morning from Washington. I'm Candy Crowley.

Grim news this morning, with another horrific video posted by ISIS, this time the beheading of a British aid worker. Prime Minister David Cameron says the murder only strengthens Britain's resolve to confront the terrorist menace.


CAMERON: There is no option of keeping our heads down that would make us safe.


CROWLEY: But in promising to support U.S. military action against ISIS, Prime Minister Cameron also said this is not about British combat troops on the ground. President Obama also has ruled out U.S. combat troops.

With me now is White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.

Thanks for joining us this morning.


CROWLEY: These are very purposeful videos put out for public consumption, sending a message. How does the White House -- what does the White House see that message to be?

MCDONOUGH: Well, they're trying to communicate any number of things, I have to imagine.

But this is what we are going to do, which is we are going to mobilize an international coalition to take this fight to ISIL, to degrade and to ultimately destroy them. That will be a coalition that includes not only our friends in Europe and Asia, but also our partners in the region, Muslim states, Sunni states, working with us to make sure that we make this a multinational effort that's one coalition.

Two, we're going to make sure that we're using our unique capabilities, airpower, intelligence surveillance, reconnaissance, and our training ability to make sure that Iraqi forces on one side and Syrian opposition forces on the other side of the border can take the fight to ISIL.

CROWLEY: Do you think they should be together...

MCDONOUGH: And then we're also going to make sure that we're keeping the heat on them, so that the foreign fighters that are going there and want to come home can't do that and pose a threat to the Americans.

CROWLEY: When you talk about -- since you bring up coalition help and a big coalition, number one, has -- in any of the conversations that the president has had, Secretary Kerry has had, others have had, has there been a country that has said, we will put combat troops on the ground?

MCDONOUGH: I'm not going to front-run any announcements from any countries or from Secretary Kerry, who is in the region, or from John Allen, who the president will be...

CROWLEY: Right. You don't need to name specifics. I just mean, has anyone said, yes, we will put...

MCDONOUGH: Again, again, I'm not going to front-run any announcements.

But the president will be sitting down with John Allen on Tuesday morning. Secretary Kerry is continuing to work this in the region. He will be testifying in Congress this week. And we will make sure that we build a coalition that is durable, that is sustainable, and that is focused on the fundamental goal of this effort, which is to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.

CROWLEY: Do you need troops on the ground other than Syrian rebels that you can vet and then train and arm and Iraqi troops and Peshmerga?

MCDONOUGH: Ultimately, to destroy ISIL, we do need to have a force, an anvil against which they will be pushed, ideally Sunni forces.

That's why the Syrian opposition is so important. And that's why this proposal that the president has sent to Congress to authorize us to train and equip the Syrian opposition that's on the ground fighting ISIL today, with better training, better weapons, so that they can take the fight to them, that's why that effort is so important.

We will do the same side on the Iraqi border with the Iraqis, but, ultimately, Candy, we can bring airpower to bear on this. We can bring ISR and we can bring training capability. It's going to be Iraqi and other boots on the ground that are bringing this fight to ISIL, ultimately, though, to destroy them.

CROWLEY: So, you will need a -- and Sunni forces could include forces from many other countries in that region, because there are -- obviously, Saudi Arabia, others could put forces on the ground?

MCDONOUGH: The main thing I want to focus on today, because of the importance of this vote -- these votes this week in Congress, is the focus on the Syrian opposition.

The Syrian opposition wants to fight. This is their fight. And we should facilitate them to do that.

CROWLEY: And just last month, the president was talking I think to Tom Friedman, and sort of described Syrian rebels as, you know, former doctors and pharmacists, and sort of -- and said it was a myth, a fairy tale -- I believed he used the word fairy tale -- it was a fairy tale that we could ever arm them and put them up against a Russian-backed Syrian government. Why are they now trainable and able to push back against what

everyone has said is the most brutal fighting force America has ever faced?

MCDONOUGH: Look, I think that the question that the president was responding to at the time was looking back a couple of years. We have had a relationship with these fighters now for a couple of years. They're getting better and more capable.

And what's most important here is that the Syrian opposition on the ground fighting ISIL can count on American and coalition airpower to supercharge their effort. That's important and that's ultimately going to be what is called for in this strategy.

CROWLEY: What about blowback, which is the other thing that people are worried about? U.S. force used in the Middle East has always seemed to arouse and radicalize other people, that there may be a chance here that, while trying to destroy ISIS, you create other terrorists that come in and take up the fight, that you will make more enemies than you will kill?

MCDONOUGH: Look, our strategy needs to be carried out in a disciplined, thoughtful fashion. That's exactly what we will do.

That's also why it calls for a coalition to include our Muslim partners from the region involved in this fight, because this fight is as much theirs as it is ours. This is a fight within Islam, within Sunni Islam. And they want to make sure that they do this.

But I want to just be clear about one thing. We have been reminded again this morning of their inhumanity, of their depravity, of their barbarity. And the fact that we somehow could have made them more so is faulty. When you're confronted with evil, sometimes, you have to confront it.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. What I'm talking about is others who have yet to join the fight, that, in fact, the U.S. presence has always been a selling point for radicals.

MCDONOUGH: That's why, again, we're going to carry this strategy out in a very disciplined fashion.

The overwhelming majority of Muslims and the overwhelming majority of Sunni Muslims are shocked and outraged by the kind of activity that we're seeing from ISIS.

CROWLEY: Which is why I keep asking if we can expect that they will put troops on the ground, that these -- that, throughout the Middle East, there are people who have more at stake in this fight than the U.S. does?

MCDONOUGH: That's right, but we have a lot at stake in this fight, which is why the president's made the decision he's made, is working and consulting with Congress to do this and is working with our allies to make sure that we have a durable, sustainable coalition. CROWLEY: Confident that you can vet these rebels in Syria, to

the extent that you know they're not going to take the weaponry and use it against the U.S.?

MCDONOUGH: We have been putting this plan together now for some time. We submitted it to Congress earlier -- late this spring, earlier this year. So we have taken this very seriously. And we believe we're ready to go with it. And that's why this vote this week is so important.

CROWLEY: Can you stage this war or this military action or this counterterrorism plan, whatever you want to call it, without American blood being spilled?

MCDONOUGH: The president said on Wednesday night in his address to the nation that any time our people are in harm's way, are in an effort like this, there's inherent risk in that.

That's why he has approached this decision with the prudence and the discernment that he has done. And as he said to many people over the course of these last many weeks, he will never apologize for being discerning and careful as he is preparing an effort that will put our troops in harm's way.

CROWLEY: You must believe -- I think when I saw this -- I did not see the whole thing, but when I saw news of another beheading, that we're now sending another 400 U.S. military personnel into Iraq to help train and figure things out, hopefully stay out of combat, that there has to be a movement within ISIS to grab an American soldier and do the exact same thing they have been doing.

Is that a concern?

MCDONOUGH: ISIL will do anything it can to strike terror and fear into its opponents, but, ultimately, that's why we're going to beat them.

They stand for nothing but what they can destroy, not for anything that they can build. That's exactly what Prime Minister Cameron was saying this morning. And that's why, ultimately, the United States, with this coalition effort, Muslim states, Sunni states, part of that effort will, ultimately, not only degrade this capability with ISIL, but destroy ISIL itself, because it really stands for nothing.

CROWLEY: White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, thanks for coming by.

MCDONOUGH: Thanks for having me, Candy.

CROWLEY: Now that we have heard the president's plan, is it going to work? We will ask two generals who have commanded U.S. forces in Iraq.

That's next.


CROWLEY: My next two guests understand the military, political and diplomat the crisis in Iraq better than anyone else. They both trained Iraqi troops after the U.S. ousted Saddam Hussein. They are here to talk about what it will take to win the fight against ISIS.

Joining me now, Army Major General Paul Eaton and Lieutenant General James Dubik.

Gentlemen, thank you both for being here.

LT. GEN. JAMES DUBIK (RET.), U.S. ARMY: You're welcome.

MAJ. GEN. PAUL EATON (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Pleasure to be here.

CROWLEY: And let me just, you know, throw the ball in the air and have you catch it. And that is, you -- what you have seen of the president's plan, what they are trying to put together, is it going to work to destroy ISIS?

DUBIK: Well, it has every possibility to work.

Of course, the proof will be in the execution, not in the planning. And it is the execution not just of the military aspects, but equally important is what follows military success, supposing we get it. What are the -- what are the actions that we're going to take diplomatically with the Iraqis to make sure that, following the ISIS defeat and withdrawal from Iraq, we have a better peace than we had prior to that?

EATON: It is a political issue.

And we have got to -- as Jim described, we have got to be able to backfill the territory that ultimately we're going to take back from ISIS and backfill it with credible moderate Muslims.

CROWLEY: You have been in that region. You know that region. The idea of moderate -- of being able to pinpoint, OK, here's -- these -- these are -- this group are moderate and this group is moderate and they're fine, I just -- I think most Americans' minds turn to Afghanistan, where we have seen people dressed in or -- or actually belonging to the Afghan military who have turned their weapons on the U.S. military.

This seems like a risky venture.

DUBIK: But it is a risky venture, but it's not an impossible venture.

And I think the task in Iraq is to revive an army. We don't have to create an army. We have -- we have done that. And one of the first tasks is to create the political policies that have led to the erosion of the proficiency of the Iraqi security forces.

CROWLEY: Right. DUBIK: The office of the commander in chief that Maliki created

has to go. The policy that put loyalty over proficiency and selection for command has to go.

CROWLEY: There needs to be a more inclusive government...

DUBIK: It has to be a more inclusive government.

CROWLEY: ... so it can stand...


CROWLEY: ... when, you know, particularly, I guess, in the northern and -- and eastern part of the country.

But -- but to the question -- as you all trained Iraqi troops for however long -- even combined, I'm not sure -- but years, right?



CROWLEY: Now we're told, OK, we have to send 400 more people in because we have got to train the Iraqi troops. Why will it work this time, when it didn't work last time?

EATON: There is a sense of, you build a soldier physically. You give them military skill sets to operate in the context of a rifle squad and to be able to use his kit.

But there's what the British call the moral component. And that's where you create a soldier who feels resilient, that he believes in his chain of command, that he is a legitimate actor on behalf of a legitimate government. That's the issue.

And it goes back to what General Dubik was talking about, this political legitimacy that we have to build in a vertical structure in Iraq in order for our Iraqi soldiers to understand they are legitimate actors.


CROWLEY: So they can fight, they didn't want to, is that what you're saying?

DUBIK: That existed in 2000 -- by 2010.

There were a series of unnoticed, but very important security policies that the Maliki administration took. First, he created this office of the commander in chief and took from the regular chain of command responsibility for conduct of operations and gave it to this relatively nefarious sectarian office.

So, the chain of command was eroded. He, Maliki, became the minister of defense and minister of interior. So, he stopped proficiency and development in those two. CROWLEY: When you look at the U.S. risk here, there's always

risk. You know, air assaults sound like, oh, we will just run over and we will drop bombs or strafe places. What is the risk here to American life and limb?


Well, you're right to say, Candy, that the airstrikes are necessary, but insufficient. They have to be in conjunction with three other campaigns, a special operations campaign.

CROWLEY: U.S. special ops.

DUBIK: U.S. with Iraqis, Iraqis primary, but with our advisers. That's going to be a risk.

The second is an unconventional warfare campaign that arms and helps both the Kurds, the Peshmerga and the Sunni tribes that are willing to fight counter to ISIS. And the third are advisers with the Iraqi security forces, the army themselves.

And, initially, they will be, at headquarters level, relatively safe, but once the counteroffensive begins, I think they will be at risk, too.

CROWLEY: There will have to be U.S. Special Ops, something out in the field?


EATON: We have had very, very few problems of green-on-blue in Iraq. I'm unaware of any American soldier hurt by an Iraqi soldier.


CROWLEY: But we're bringing in now this -- these unknown Syrian rebels. I think that's where the worries begin.

DUBIK: Different issue. Different issue, though.

CROWLEY: Yes? I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt.

EATON: Indeed.

But military planning is all -- is all about risk mitigation. And that's what the chain of command does. And we will have the patches in place to be able to buy down that risk.

CROWLEY: So let me ask you as we close this off, first of all, does ISIS or do the Syrians have the power to bring down American planes, or do they have that equipment? Is that at all doable?

EATON: I would expect that surface-to-air missiles are in the hands of people who would want to bring down U.S. aircraft. And, again...

CROWLEY: In both countries?


CROWLEY: Well, it's sort of one country now.

EATON: I'm not sure that they know the boundary.

And so that -- that is a risk, but our Air Force understands risk management. Our Air Force is brilliant at conducting what we're asking them to do, so I have great faith in our Air Force's ability to prosecute this.

CROWLEY: But, in the end, you see it certainly is going to -- both of you agree, it's going to take special forces in the field at some point, U.S.?

DUBIK: It does.

It will take special operations forces with -- conjunction with the Iraqis. And it will take conventional forces, too. The advisers for many of the units now are conventional, captains, majors, lieutenant colonels, senior sergeants. This is exactly the kind of advice that they need from conventional, not just special operation forces.

CROWLEY: I want to thank you both for coming by.


CROWLEY: I hope you will stop by again as we kind of move forward with this. I appreciate it.

DUBIK: Look forward to it. Thank you.

EATON: Our pleasure.

CROWLEY: Major General Paul Eaton and Lieutenant General James Dubik.

Coming up now: a billion-dollar industry in crisis. Between abusive players and no-nothing executives, where are the role models in the NFL? We will ask a U.S. senator whose father is a sportswriter.


CROWLEY: On this second Sunday of the NFL season, the talk, at least outside the stadium, isn't about throwing passes. It's about throwing punches.

Senator Amy Klobuchar contacted NFL commissioner Roger Goodell this week, along with many other Senate women, asking for a zero- tolerance policy for domestic violence.

She joins me now, along with "Washington Post" sports columnist Mike Wise. I want to thank you both for being here. I feel like the conversation has gone from should Ray Rice lose

his job to should Roger Goodell, the commissioner, lose his job? Should he?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Well, first of all, I'm a former prosecutor, Candy.

And I think what you need to do is look at all the evidence, the facts. I think Bob Mueller's -- his integrity is on the line here. He's a good man, and, hopefully, he will get all the facts out, because I have a feeling there's a lot of people that know stuff about what really went on here.

But on its facts, you have a situation where a man knocked a woman out cold on an elevator. There's a tape that clearly shows what happened. I think most employers would look for all the evidence. Maybe you give a temporary suspension while you're looking at the evidence. But the fact that they gave only a two-game suspension, and then turn around and after the evidence goes public say, oh, oh, we made a mistake, now we're going to let him go, I think that's problematic for the NFL and it's deeply concerning about how they handle these kinds of cases.

CROWLEY: So, as a prosecutor, you're waiting for the evidence on the...


KLOBUCHAR: I'm waiting to see what -- if there is a major cover- up, if it shows he lies, if they -- there could be many factual situations where, in fact, he should step down.

But I like to see what the facts are.


MIKE WISE, "THE WASHINGTON POST": And I'm going to jump the gun on the senator. I think Roger Goodell does need to go, and for a myriad of reasons.

But, at the very least, Candy, he's going to be -- he's going to come out of this investigation at the very least incompetent, at the very worst maybe duplicitous and lying about what he knew regarding the videotape.

The thing that bothered me -- and not because of the transparency -- the transparency issue, the thing that bothered me most is, Roger Goodell at one point tried to play essentially a marriage counselor with the victim and the perpetrator, Janay and Ray Rice. He put the victim and the perpetrator together.

Every domestic violence agency, every law enforcement agency, that's a no-no. She's -- she -- she is sitting in the -- telling her story in front of the person who essentially abused her. And it -- and -- and it's the tone-deafness of those types of things that show me that this commissioner does not take domestic violence seriously enough.

CROWLEY: And let me -- I want to read you something from the police report, which everybody had access to.

It's public. It was public. It's available to the public -- where it said, "The complainant says that, to the best of his or her knowledge, the named defendant" -- that would be Rice in this case -- "committed assault by attempting to cause bodily injury to J. Palmer," his fiancee at the time, "specifically by striking her with his hand, rendering her unconscious."


CROWLEY: All right? So they knew that the blow he gave to her rendered her -- it wasn't that she knocked her head against something when he pushed her. It wasn't -- so they already knew that.

So it does say to me that the evidence was right there, and they couldn't stand the P.R. of that video.


And that appears to be the case here. And this is why there's an outcry from around the country. And when you think about the NFL, these cases, as you know, Candy, happen all the time. Every minute, 24 women are beaten. And the fact that the NFL puts out their players as role models, which they are for so many young men, they can make a real difference here by putting in place tougher policies, by changing the culture within the NFL.

I know that Mike would tell you there's not just one player that has done this. And that's why this is...

CROWLEY: No, it's alarming when you see the number of players that have been, you know, arrested and charged with...

WISE: Fifty-six just under Roger Goodell's watch.

Only 13 games have been -- he's suspended 13 games total of all these players, so -- so the numbers are alarming. Everything about it seems -- and I understand people are upset also that the district attorney and the prosecutor's office in Atlantic City and Atlantic County did not get involved in New Jersey.

That's a separate argument. The -- every player signs a -- a moral conduct clause with his contract. And if you don't abide by that, you're essentially -- you're beholden to the rules of the commissioner.


I want to read you something from a letter. John Conyers, Congressman John Conyers, along with others, wrote a letter to the commissioner asking that this be a transparent investigation into what's gone on. And he wrote in part, "We believe that these high- profile professional leagues are in many ways in a position of public trust and should be at the forefront of handling such incidents appropriately."

So, you think back to someone like singer Chris Brown, who publicly also beat his girlfriend at the time, Rihanna. Nobody called on the music industry and said, don't put him on the Grammys. Don't do this.

So, what is the -- where -- where's the line where you're a public figure and, therefore, we're idolizing you, and, therefore, you have to behave in a certain way? I mean, if a newscaster was charged with this, would -- would you then say, don't want to ever put him on the air again? Where is that line?

WISE: Yes, it's a tough one because there is sort of if you're sort of laying dry wall at a construction site are you beholding to the same laws that (ph) people - I think is something about a public figure also --

CROWLEY: Which public figures.

WISE: Exactly which public figure, what entertainment. People go to see - people went to see Robert Downey Jr.'s movies even after his substance abuse problems but they would cry wolf if Lance Armstrong ever took another drug and got on a bicycle. So, I think there is a double standard there.

KLOBUCHAR: You know, when I was a prosecutor we had a poster outside of the door so everyone would see it when they came in. It was a picture of a woman beaten up, with a Band-Aid over her nose holding a little baby boy, and the words read, "Beat your wife and it's your son that goes to jail."

Twice the number kids that get in trouble on domestic abuse, that have witnessed it, that have seen it happen then they're twice as likely to commit it themselves. So, does the NFL which holds these players out to young men all across the country have an obligation here? Yes.

I can't compare it to every industry. I know in a lot of places if they had a video like that they would dismiss an employee without a doubt. However they have this obligation when they are putting out their players as role models to set a different culture.

WISE: And the best thing about this whole thing that's come out, one of them is players current and former, including Scott Fujita and others have taken up to social media and written columns for different news organizations and said, enough already. We don't want this to reflect us. We believe in respecting women, we don't hit women and we don't think any of our peers should either, and we will support a lot as a teammate and the whole ethos of having someone's back...


WISE: ...if they earn the right to be part of our family, that's...

CROWLEY: Otherwise, no. WISE: ...that disqualifies you.

CROWLEY: Senator Klobuchar, I have to do this, we have seconds left, because Adrian Peterson, member of your beloved Vikings, has been arrested and charged with child abuse I believe. He spanked his child with a - well, he thrashed his child with a branch and left visible and bloody streaks.

KLOBUCHAR: First of all, I'm a big Vikings fan. I grew up with the Vikings. My dad had a job similar to Mike's and nevertheless this is a 4-year-old child, Candy. This is a 4-year-old child. This is very serious allegations.

CROWLEY: Zero tolerance?

KLOBUCHAR: And I am very glad the first thing that happened is different than the Rice case. The Rice case didn't come out during the season but the Ravens didn't do something immediately. What the Vikings have done here is they immediately deactivated him, he's not playing in the game today with the Patriots and I'm sure they're gathering the evidence, looking at it, hearing what he has to say but mostly looking at the pictures that are out there and everything and they will make a decision and the prosecutor will pursue the case. Again, this is a 4-year-old boy.

WISE: Having a 4-year-old son myself I understand there's a logic out there, if you spare the rod you spoil the child. This has nothing to do with an argument about corporal punishment. This boy was beat with a switch until he was bloody. End of story.

CROWLEY: Sports columnist Mike Wise, "The Washington Post," thank you so much. Senator Amy Klobuchar, thanks for bringing your -- the fact that you're a female, a former prosecutor and U.S. senator you are a triple hit for us today. Thank you very much.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Candy.

WISE: Thanks, Candy.

CROWLEY: Should the NFL commissioner stay or go? Our political panel is next, so we thought it would be interesting to see how the question cuts across the party lines.


CROWLEY: Here's a question we never expected to be discussing less than two months before the 2014 elections. Should NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stay or go?

Joining me around the table, Jay Carney, former White House press secretary now on the CNN payroll, Lanhee Chen, is a former adviser to Mitt Romney, "CROSSFIRE" hose, S.E. Cupp and commentator, L.Z. Granderson, thanks, all.

So, I mean, that's kind of - I mean, not that there aren't politics in the NFL and certainly there are. Let me start over here, S.E., what do you think, stay or go?

S.E. CUPP, CNN CROSSFIRE HOST: Well, if it turns out that Roger Goodell saw the tape and is lying about it, I think that's clear that he's got to be fired. There's got to be a trust between the commissioner, the players, the owners and the fans, and clearly there wouldn't be if it turned out he'd been lying about it and covering this up.

CROWLEY: The problem I had the police report said very clearly he struck her in the face...

CUPP: Yes.

CROWLEY: ...and caused her to be knocked out. I mean, I know we're a visual nation here but how much video do we need to see?

LZ GRANDERSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: There's a hierarchy to our outrage and I think we're skipping over. You know, we should be first talking about the judicial system and how in the world did this tape get seen by the prosecutors, by the judge, by everyone and then he gets a slap on the wrist. Then we can work our way down to Roger Goodell, who has had 55, 56 arrests for domestic-violence related incidents -


CUPP: Not him.

GRANDERSON: Not him, right. Clearing that up, during his watch, and so why are we isolating Ray Rice when he had 55 other incidents and what to you do with the players who have convictions of domestic violence you are on the field today?

LANHEE CHEN, MITT ROMNEY 2012 ADVISER: It does come back to the fact though that there are role models here. People -- young kids look at folks in the NFL and we need to be able to have some confidence that the league is doing things to prevent this from happening and I don't see that happening right now. And that's the primary reason why people think Goodell ought to go.

CROWLEY: They have a point. You've got young kids. I remember my kids just thinking that Doc Gooden was just the neatest guy in the world and he ends up in the slammer on all kinds of drug charges. And it's hard. It does matter.

JAY CARNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, the world is complicated enough you don't want to have to spend your time explaining to your kids that their heroes are not at all heroic, quite the opposite. And I think that what S.E. said about the commissioner is true.

I think what L.Z. said about the systemic problem which won't be solved simply by replacing the person at the top is a bigger issue. And you know, there are other models in professional sports where the top has taken action with a lot more quickly and with a lot more clarity in terms of the morals of it, than we've seen here and it's a real problem for the NFL.

GRANDERSON: You know what's interesting, Candy, is that we are focusing a lot on the NFL but (INAUDIBLE) research and the Department of Labor says, there's only 12 percent of U.S. companies even have policies about addressing domestic violence.

CROWLEY: Right. Exactly. I agree with you on that, that this can't just be about the people you see.


CROWLEY: It has to be about the people you don't see as well.

Let me move you on to 2014. Midterms coming up, and the reason I want to talk about it today was I read copious numbers of articles this week, one of which, two of which said wave election, Republicans are going to control the House and the Senate, and it's going to be a big wave. And then I read in the "New York Times" that, well, you know the Democrats now have a clear pathway to win this.

CUPP: Right.

CROWLEY: So, I thought I'd put that to you all.

CUPP: You know, I think you're referring to the Nate Cohn piece in the "New York Times" which I found really interesting. Because it does, it lays out what he thinks is a clear path for Democrats in states like Alaska and Colorado and Michigan and North Carolina. And what the polling that he offers doesn't take into account is the fact that midterm elections are going to favor Republicans anyway, just for turnout, and all of these incumbents in these states should be up significantly by virtue of the fact that they are incumbents. The fact that it is so close is not good news for Democrats, regardless of how tight the races are at this moment.

CARNEY: I mean, I think you can't, this is not going to be a good year for Democrats by definition, right? The last time an incumbent president's party did well in the midterms was in 2002 which was a strange midterm...

CUPP: Yes.

CARNEY: the wake of 9/11, so, and the sixth year of a presidency is always particularly bad for the president's party.

Then you couple that with the fact that so many seats are defended by Democrats in red states where Mitt Romney did very well against the president, double digits in most cases and there's no outcome in November that anybody could say would be great for Democrats, except for barely holding onto the Senate. I think it's just going to depend on how localized the races are. There's a national wave the Democrats were in trouble, if not, there's a way where the Democrats hold onto the Senate, but it's going to be hard.

CROWLEY: I mean, we can't say it's a wave but honestly when you look at some of these - some of the wins, the president's approval rating, right track/wrong track, which you know, more than 60 percent of the country going, wrong track, wrong track. I mean, how is the president handling the economy? How is he handling international affairs? All the wind is very much in the face of Democrats.

CHEN: The thing is, the Republicans don't need a wave to get to 51. They've got so many pathways to get there. You look at the different states that are in play right now. And I think the map has actually expanded for Republicans with Oregon and Minnesota potentially coming online.

So, my sense is that the Republicans never needed a wave, that they were always institutionally as Jay was saying the states that were going to be up this cycle we're going to favor Republicans more anyway and the fact that they've managed to expand them beyond that and defend in Georgia and Kentucky by the way. I think this is shaping up to be a great cycle for the GOP.

CROWLEY: L.Z., let me - let me start you on answering my favorite question which is let's assume that the Republicans do take control of Capitol Hill. Which is it? A time that Republicans will then have to show that they actually can lead and do something, or will it be a recipe for gridlock for the last two years in the Obama administration? Which will it be?



GRANDERSON: I definitely think it's going to be a recipe for both, because, and we know this is going to happen, once they get power and I'm going to assume that they will have power, one of the first things they'll try to attack is the Affordable Care Act again. Regardless of what is going on they'll try to attack that again and then they'll going to pass it, it's going (INAUDIBLE) to the president and of course he's going to veto it.

They even continue to see the policies of the president put in place is going to try to be overturned by Congress, so make it to his desk and then he's going to veto it. And they're going to use it as a platform to springboard into the general election in 2016.

I think what will be the best case scenario is that the Democrats continue to keep the Senate not because, you know, I tend to represent, you know, liberal viewpoints but because I think it's healthier for the national conversation as we deal with the ISIS crisis. If you start having group think, the next thing you know we repeat the errors that we had in Iraq, which is no one is really challenging anything because we're all just kind of pushing along and there's no voices that's going to oppose. We need to have an oppositions that's what (INAUDIBLE) talked about the oppositions necessary for democracy.

CUPP: Well, I hope what Republicans do when they win the Senate is avoid the sort of midterm trap that they usually fall into. Great midterm year and they can't pull it around for national election, because they've swung to the right and then they have to rebound to the center and it doesn't work. What I'm hoping and what I'm optimistic about is that they go after things like prison reform, demilitarization of the police, over-the-counter birth control, all efforts we're seeing in small pockets among some Republicans and particular libertarians, I hope they remember that those are the kinds of efforts and policy proposals that are going to speak to the center and the rest of the country.

GRANDERSON: They didn't have them before, though. The tea party came in and they were supposed to be focusing on the economy and what is the first thing they started doing is start addressing everything else but the economy. I don't see them actually doing what they say they're going to do during the campaign season. Once they get into August it's not about Obama not about -


CROWLEY: Let me get Lanhee and Jay in on this.

CARNEY: I think this is the challenge for Republicans is that, you know, we've seen this movie before where they do well in the midterm, they do well in these local elections but they have a national problem. I'm not sure they can fix it with some of the prescriptions you laid out although better that's a better proposition than trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act again and again especially as more and more Americans have good experiences with the Affordable Care Act which I think they will. So, I think either outcome produces terrible gridlock. I don't think the experience the last, you know, two years has been I think record gridlock

CROWLEY: More of the same.

CARNEY: So, the problem for - the problem for Republicans if they win, I mean, it's true that Americans begin to think we hate Congress and it is now clear that one party is in control of congress.


CARNEY They probably still want it. I think --

CROWLEY: I need you to take a shortcut.

CHEN: Governing agenda is key and we can come back to that. I think a governing agenda is key. The Republicans do need to govern on the Affordable Care Act, need to govern on the economy and those are going to be keys as people look toward 2016.

CROWLEY: Lanhee Chen, L.Z. Granderson, Jay Carney, welcome to CNN, welcome this (ph) Sunday morning. S.E. Cupp, I keep thinking, I may not see it the next time so -

CUPP: I can have it on your show.

CROWLEY: OK. Thank you for that.

CUPP: I'll hold off a couple of -


CROWLEY: Great T.V., let us know.

Our next stop is in Iowa, a steak fry and of course 2016 is on the menu. We'll sit down with the host, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin.


CROWLEY: Welcome back.

We want you to take a look at preparations for an Iowa political tradition. Senator Tom Harkin's 37th annual steak fry and, yes, Hillary Clinton will be there. It's the final steak fry before Senator Harkin retires and that's why we sat down with him earlier.


CROWLEY: When you look back over your 37 years, who was the easiest president to work with?

SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: I think two were easy to work with. George H.W. Bush, first President Bush. Of course, he signed my Americans with disabilities act into law so I have great esteem for him and he was just good to work with and then Bill Clinton.

I mean, we had a great relationship, and, you know, Bill Clinton only had a Democratic Congress for two years and then it was a Republican Congress from then on. Then he had the impeachment and all that, but even in the face of that, we had one of the best economic growths we've ever had in this country.

CROWLEY: Most difficult?

HARKIN: Well, it would be a tie. George W. Bush or Jimmy Carter.

CROWLEY: Interesting. That's very bipartisan of you. Interesting.

HARKIN: Well, it's true.

CROWLEY: You're retiring and what that means to folks in Iowa is the last steak fry. The 37th steak fry. It's a fund-raiser for the Iowa Democratic Party but more than that it's been a huge draw for presidential candidates. This year you're big headliners Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Will you be a Hillary Clinton supporter? Are you a Hillary Clinton supporter?

HARKIN: We're very close friends. Both Bill and Hillary have provided I think inspiring leadership to our country for a long time.

I served on the committee with Hillary when she was in the Senate. I think her performance at secretary of state was amazing. She has energized women and girls all around the globe. She's given them hope and new aspirations. She is a global figure.

CROWLEY: That falls a little short of Tom Harkin jumping on her bandwagon at this moment. Tell me about the newcomers in the Republican -- in the Democratic Party. Who is the new face of the Democratic Party? Who is out there that can take her on?

HARKIN: Well, I don't know. I mean, I'm sure that different people will come to the forefront. I have had Governor O'Malley --

CROWLEY: What do you think of him? He's a liberal -- certainly could be seen as a progressive.

HARKIN: He has been a great governor, a great governor, done great things. He's certainly out there as a viable person. He's there. And I think you may see one or two senators that might come up that might want to do something in this regard.

I think of people like Mark Warner from Virginia. He'll win his re-election this year. Others that are out there that I think that might be coming up, younger new Democrats coming up like that.

CROWLEY: Do you think it will be a race or is it a little bit of a done deal if Hillary decides to run?

HARKIN: Well, look, let's be honest about this. If Hillary decides to run, I think it's going to be very tough for anyone else. That's not to say they won't do it. They might. Some other Democrats may pop up or you might get a Bernie Sanders, for example, as an independent might pop up.

I don't know. I think you may have people come to the forefront that maybe want to stress certain issues in a - in a campaign, but I think if Hillary decides to run, I think it's going to be very tough for any Democrat to try to get ahead of her. I'm not saying it can't be done, it will be very tough though.

CROWLEY: You served a long time with Joe Biden.

HARKIN: Mm-hmm.

CROWLEY: You were liberal voices together on many, many things.

HARKIN: Mm-hmm.

CROWLEY: Is he going to run for president and would you support him?

HARKIN: I love Joe Biden.

In fact, he spoke at my steak fry just last year. Got a great reception. I mean - I mean, everyone loves Joe Biden. In fact, I was quite frankly surprised in the 2008 race, I thought he was going to do a lot better than what happened in the Iowa caucuses because everywhere I went, people love Joe Biden, but Obama was just running through Iowa and he was --

CROWLEY: Up against Obama and Hillary.

HARKIN: And Hillary both. I mean, he's just (ph) a great friend and I think Joe Biden would make an outstanding president but I just don't know if Hillary gets in the race, will he run? I don't know. Let's ask him.

CROWLEY: But you know him.

HARKIN: Oh, I love Joe Biden. He is great. He is just -- he's just good all around. He's got everything it takes to be a good president and he has been a great vice president.

CROWLEY: Right. There are lots of people that have run that probably would have made great presidents over time. I guess the question is now for someone you've worked so long with and you see the Hillary Clinton bandwagon sort of growing as it goes along, what's your advice to him?

HARKIN: To Joe Biden? Hang in there. You never know what tomorrow brings.

Keep doing what he's doing. He's been around the country campaigning for Democrats, supporting our Democratic candidates around the country. He's been out front on a lot of good issues. And my advice is hang in there, Joe, because you never know what tomorrow brings.

CROWLEY: And if Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton were in the race, what would Tom Harkin do?

HARKIN: Love them both.

CROWLEY: Senator Tom Harkin, we've known each other a long time.

HARKIN: A long time, Candy.

CROWLEY: I'm so glad you came by.

HARKIN: Thanks, Candy, good to see you always, always. Thanks.


CROWLEY: We'll be right back.


CROWLEY: Thank you for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington.

Fareed Zakaria, "GPS," starts right now.