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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY
Interview With Governors Douglas, Patrick; Interview With Senator Evan Bayh
Aired February 21, 2010 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: A week after the snow storms, Washington's deep freeze has made it a butt of jokes, but this is no joke, here is TIME's new cover: "Why Washington Is Frozen."
I am Candy Crowley, and this is STATE OF THE UNION.
CROWLEY (voice-over): This is ugly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The senator want to hear the deal?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The senator keeps interrupting, he is violating the rules of the Senate. I thought he would have learned them by now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're delaying, Senator, and we just have...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, I am not delaying. I am making an extremely important point.
CROWLEY: This morning, two governors on how this turns off the rest of the country.
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: I wonder if I could unanimous consent for just an additional moment?
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: I object.
CROWLEY: And then, three people who got out on whether there is any way to fix it.
CROWLEY: Just this week, Indiana Democrat Evan Bayh said after almost 12 years in the Senate, he is so fed up he won't run again. Bayh is among those who join us in a bit to look at whether there is any way out of this mess other than the door. But when the senator made his announcement, he teed up the problem CNN will focus on this week.
Just out this morning, our CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll showing just how many of you think it's a problem: 86 percent of Americans think their government is broken. It's not hard to argue that near gridlock has set in, no health care reform, no new effort to cap carbon emissions, no new jobs bill, and the new tone in Washington is pretty much the same old song.
The politics of hope seem to be stuck in the wheels of governance. How did we get here? Is there a fix? But even more fundamentally, what is wrong with moving slowly on the really big things?
While we try to figure it out with our Sunday guests, keep this in mind also from our new poll. Yes, a growing number of Americans think government is broken, but more than three-quarters of Americans thought the same thing four years ago.
Joining me to begin are two governors from states that President Obama should be able to count on. Republican Jim Douglas of Vermont is the chairman of the National Governors Association, Democrat Deval Patrick's Massachusetts is still feeling the aftershocks of having a Republican take Teddy Kennedy's seat.
So you've come to frozen Washington. You've had your convention or are in the midst of it, actually, so give us the view from outside. When -- I am assuming some of these 86 percent of Americans live in your states, and what are they thinking?
PATRICK: Well -- may I, Jim?
DOUGLAS: Go ahead.
PATRICK: First of all, I want to say we are very well led in the National Governors Association by Jim Douglas, who is a great friend, and we work together on a number of things. And frankly, I think that the public I represent is keen to see more of the kind of cooperation that Governor Douglas and I share.
You know, there are -- I am a Democrat and proud to be a Democrat, but I did not run to be governor of the Democrats. I serve everybody. And I think that expectation is there and it's a fair and appropriate expectation of the public for people we send to Washington as well.
CROWLEY: What most irks your Vermont folks?
DOUGLAS: Well, I think gridlock that we see in Washington to which Deval referred. We have two major political parties in our country, and that's fine, they have different points of view. And the robustness of the political process is that those views come to the table, they are debated and reconciled.
But ultimately something has to happen. The work has to be done. The streets have to be plowed or the budget has to be balanced. And I agree that in the National Governors Association, we have a much more collegial relationship. We talk with each other, we learn from each other, Deval and I hosted a health care forum last spring at the request of the president. We have to get the job done. And when we look at Congress, all of the bickering, the inaction, I think the American people are really fed up.
PATRICK: And if I may, Candy, it's -- it's unseemly, to use a tactful term, to see so many people sit on the side -- so many people in office sit on the sidelines and root for failure. I think most Americans, no matter what their political background or political party affiliation, if they have one, want their president to succeed.
And I think this president, by focusing on health care, by focusing on job creation, by focusing on the anxieties and the sufferings of the people of this country is focusing where people want him to. He does not pretend to have all of the answers and never has. He has been open to ideas from other sides -- from the other side, and that has shown in the legislative agenda that he has pursued and the substance of that agenda.
But I think that the American people are going to hold accountable those who simply sit on the sidelines and root for failure. We can't afford that.
CROWLEY: Let me do point out here just that in 2006 when we saw also three-quarters of Americans going this government is broken was a huge sweep out of office of Republicans. I think it remains to be seen who is actually going to get punished for this come November, because the Democrats are in charge. But I want to ask a more fundamental question of you.
I think we all know that in comedy, there's always a lot of truth and you can sometimes get difficult questions or sometimes the most simplistic questions out...
PATRICK: (INAUDIBLE) says there are no jokes.
CROWLEY: That's right. There are no jokes.
So I just want to play this from David Letterman solo, when he opens his show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW": The upper East Coast and Washington, D.C., probably hit hardest of all, two storms back to back, the bad news is Washington, D.C., is entirely shut down, the good news is, Washington, D.C., is entirely shut down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: So I'm wondering if he is speaking for governors? Because you all both have health care programs installed in your states. You are working on that. Do you wish Washington would just stop working on health care? DOUGLAS: Well, we are in this together, Candy. Medicaid is paid principally by the federal government, the program that helps the low- income people of our state.
DOUGLAS: Well, I know, and that's -- can be a problem unless it's done sustainably. But your point is a good one that Massachusetts, Vermont, Minnesota, some other states, have really been on the vanguard of reforming health care.
And what I said to my colleagues at our meeting was health care reform is happening, it's happening in the states. We would like to have a better partner in Washington because we have a shared responsibility, but meanwhile governors are going to keep moving forward to try to insure the people of our states.
CROWLEY: Do you sometimes look at Washington and think, I really wish they would all go on recess?
PATRICK: No, no. I'm -- you know, I -- the joke was funny, but we need a functioning federal government, we need a functioning -- we need functioning state governments and local governments, not because government can solve every problem in everybody's life, but that has a role to play in helping people help themselves. And there are some things we choose to do together. And that's what we call government.
In the case of health care reform, we've had now a program in place for the three plus years I have been in office that has delivered health insurance to over 97 percent of our residents. There is not another state that can touch us.
CROWLEY: So, but other than to fund Medicaid...
PATRICK: Vermont is right behind us, coming on strong.
CROWLEY: Yes, other than to fund Medicaid, though, would you rather they stay out of the way? I mean here is this a big program, I know at the Governors Association, you have had governors going, stop, you know, I don't want this thing to pass.
DOUGLAS: Well, I think we have to work together. But remember what the real problem is, and that's the cost of health care that keeps rising at rates that are multiples of inflation year after year after year. And I think there has been too much...
PATRICK: Whether you have a universal program or not.
PATRICK: That's happening everywhere.
DOUGLAS: That's the point, because it doesn't matter whether it's a publicly funded program or private health insurance companies, if we don't get cost under control, we are going to be broke either way. So we need to reform the way we deliver care. We need to reform the payment system to incent quality care and good outcomes and get those costs under control.
PATRICK: Excuse me, Candy, I'm sorry. We think there are a handful of principles that we can agree on on a bipartisan basis as governors who are having to solve problems and deliver real care.
CROWLEY: Let me sort speak to that, because when you all sat down at this table before we went on the air, the first thing you said to me was, this is a great governor, he really has done such a great job. You have far more commonality of purpose here than I think we've seen on Capitol Hill for some time.
As you know, Evan Bayh, who is going to be on the program a little later, said this week, I'm not coming back. They're not getting something done. He wrote an editorial this morning in The New York Times. And I want to read you a portion of it and ask you about it.
It said: "In 1968, when my father," that would Birch Bayh, "was running for re-election, Everett Dirksen, the Republican leader, approached him on the Senate floor, put his arm around my dad's shoulder, and asked what he could do to help. This is unimaginable today.
DOUGLAS: I think it is about relationships. And we had a long- time senator from Vermont named George Aiken, and he had breakfast with Mike Mansfield, the Democratic senator from Montana every morning for like 30 years. Two senators of different parties building that personal relationship. And now they don't have breakfast together in Washington, they don't have dinner together. And without those personal relationships that we have as governors, I don't think we can accomplish our goals.
CROWLEY: Do you have personal relationships -- well, you have to work with Republicans in your legislature. You clearly have to work with Democrats in Vermont. Do you know their kids? Do you have personal relationships? You sit down to dinner, is that how you get things done?
PATRICK: You know, we find ways to build bridges. You work together on different issues. You occasionally socialize together. I think, governors, we get together formally a couple times a year, but we talk all the time. And it's a very -- you know, they are very almost intimate conversations, conversations that are difficult to have, that are more candid in some respects if there was not another governor.
And then we trust each other to keep those confidences, to use discretion.
DOUGLAS: In Vermont it was four years ago when we passed our health care reform measure, frankly, I vetoed the first one the year before, but then we worked together on a bipartisan basis to fashion a program that is sustainable, that meets our objectives. DOUGLAS: And earlier this year, we worked together again across party lines to address the budget challenge that we're confronting to agree on some budget cuts that are difficult but ones that we have to make for the best interest of the state.
CROWLEY: And it probably helps that you all have to live in the neighborhoods and walk the streets and listen to your constituents, and it makes you do that, yeah. I need to take a break, here, but we are going to come back with both of you to talk more about this.
Later, Democratic Senator Evan Bayh and two others who decided to get out of Congress will talk about whether there is any way to get back on the right track. But when we come back, I would like you two to address whether the sentiment that Washington is broken is really anything new.
CROWLEY: We are back with Governor Jim Douglas of Vermont and Deval Patrick of Massachusetts. One of the great things about TV is that you can just put together blasts from the past and sort of amuse yourself. So I want to play you this as sort of a rendition of where we have been in years past.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: The American people, I don't know about inside the Beltway, but outside they are fed up with business as usual and so am I.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Government is broken and we intend to fix it.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: Congress is not getting its work done. We are near the end of the year, and there really isn't much to show for it.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We face a deficit of trust, deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CROWLEY: So rather than have the two of you, as I suggested in the break, sort of lead a therapy session on Capitol Hill, how do you -- this has been a cycle that has been going on, and I dare we could go further back and hear presidents complain. And this seems to be more than just the branches of government in a natural conflict. This seems to be certainly something the American people believe in, that it's just broken. So do we accept it or do we move on and figure out a way?
DOUGLAS: I think we have to move on and figure out a way, Candy, because we've got a national debt that is now over $12 trillion. We have got unemployment that is higher than it has been in our lifetime. We have an economy and a government that are indeed broken. So we have no choice but to get folks in Washington to come together, to find some common ground, as governors do, as we do in our states, and address the challenges of the American people.
CROWLEY: What do you most want them to do? What do you need?
PATRICK: Well, I'll tell you one thing, apart from policy that would be very helpful is to deal with facts as facts and not pretend like you know, everybody can have one set of facts. I mean, I look at the Recovery Act and all of the noise about job creation and then I go and I visit a company like Next Anthup (ph) up in North Andover, which is founded by Iraqi vets. They are doing solar installations. They started at four. Thanks to the Recovery Act, they are on their way to 100 employees, that's real. And there are 25,000 other stories like in that Massachusetts.
So I think it's very hard to have a debate about policy direction if we can't agree on reality. And there are some truths here that I think are just unavoidable. Facts are, as I say, stubborn things.
CROWLEY: They are, but there are facts that can you bring to the forefront and facts you can ignore. I think that's also the problem is that people leave out things or choose the ones that sort of favor their possession. But how do you -- I have been in Washington for a long time, it's very hard to take the politics out of policy.
DOUGLAS: I think you should lead those therapy sessions, Candy. No, you're right, as I said at the outset, it's good to have different ideas. The marketplace of ideas is what this country is all about, some different opinions that are put on the table and talked about and good outcomes are what we expect from that process.
But recently, I think, we've seen such gridlock, such intense partisanship, that the American people, as reflected in the polls are really discouraged. And I think it's more serious now because this is the longest and deepest recession we have had. Yeah, it's more serious than those other times.
CROWLEY: And what is -- because you spoke to that yesterday and said you all think this coming fiscal year that begins this summer is going to be worse than the last fiscal year.
PATRICK: From a state budget. CROWLEY: From a state budget point of view. You are all working on deficits, most states are and a lot of those states can't have deficits, so you have to do something. So how is the gridlock right now affecting your constituents and your constituents?
DOUGLAS: Well in budgetary terms, states are facing shortfalls of about $134 billion total over the next two fiscal years. We get a significant amount of money from Medicaid and other federal programs from Washington and we need to have some predictability, some expectation of what those resources are, so we can budget in our own states. We may have different views on how much we should get or over what period of time, but we need some certainty, and this gridlock doesn't provide that. So we really need Washington to come together, to work on a bipartisan basis, and get us out of this.
PATRICK: Another example of that, we have large numbers of people out of work all across the country, in varying degrees in different ones of our states. The Congress has put forward a proposal to extend unemployment benefits. That's not because we want people to become reliant on unemployment benefits, it's just because we want people to be able to bridge to a better and stronger economy. There hasn't been action on that. There is a jobs bill that has been proposed by the White House and there is a discussion up on Capitol Hill. I think the House has passed it, the Senate hasn't moved it. We need that kind of action and we need it now.
CROWLEY: Governor Douglas and Governor Patrick, I want you to listen to something, which I think you will recognize that we, again, our blast from the past, not a too distance blast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUGLAS: I know there are differences of opinion on some of the elements, and if I were writing it, it might be a little different. If you were writing it, it might be a little different, but the essence of a recovery package is essential to get our nation's economy moving.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Stimulus package, you were supporting the president. I can tell you that that same picture has gotten Florida Governor Crist in a position where he may not win the primaries and that picture of him with the president, isn't that part of the problem, is if you as governors can sit there and it's fine except for when you want to move on to a different position, you can get hurt?
DOUGLAS: I didn't realize my tie wasn't straight in that picture. What I said then is what I think most governors believe, that we might like it a little different.
DOUGLAS: Frankly, I was hoping there would be a little more for infrastructure, but -- but it was a package of relief that the states need urgently at a time when our state budgets were collapsing and we were facing the prospect of drastic cuts in state services or increases in taxes that wouldn't be fair or sustainable.
So a recovery package was appropriate to stimulate the economy at that time last year. So, on a bipartisan basis, the president reached out -- I appreciate that -- to Republican governors, to try to put something together.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you...
PATRICK: And Jim was -- Jim was great on this, and it was -- as was Governor Crist, very, very helpful.
And then, you know, there are other elements. For example, there was a -- Jim talked about wanting more infrastructure money in it. There was a compromise to do less infrastructure, because Republicans in the Congress wanted a larger tax package -- tax cuts, huge tax cuts in this -- in this bill.
The president agreed to that. The Democrats brought it to the floor, and then all of the Republicans voted against it. That's the sort of thing that seems to me has got to end. If we're going to reach out and try to make those compromises, then let's -- let's come together in the end and actually get stuff done.
CROWLEY: I want to ask you a quick question, because you have a number of urban areas, obviously, in Massachusetts; because you're an African-American governor. The president was paid a visit by a number of African-American leaders recently, and they said, listen to me; you've got -- the African-American unemployment is higher than the norm; we need a program specific for these areas.
Does the president need to do that?
PATRICK: I think it -- it can only be helpful. You know, we're trying to do something within the framework of the Recovery Act by using local residents on infrastructure projects, because -- and doing training in order to prepare people for those skills. I think that's the sort of thing we have to be focused on.
CROWLEY: Governor Patrick of Massachusetts, thank you so much.
PATRICK: Thank you for having me. Governor Douglas of Vermont, have a happy retirement, but I imagine we'll see you...
DOUGLAS: Oh, no, no. no. I'll find something else to do.
CROWLEY: That's right, I bet you will. We thank you so much for joining us.
DOUGLAS: It won't be in Washington.
CROWLEY: OK. I can tell.
When we come back, Evan Bayh, Susan Molinari and Jon Corzine.
CROWLEY: Just when you begin to think all is lost, the American people show up in a burst of can-do optimism. Look at our final poll numbers this morning.
Of the 86 percent of Americans who think the government is broken, 81 percent think it can be fixed.
So, joining us now, three people with firsthand experience inside Washington, who have their own ideas how to fix it, Democratic Senator Evan Bayh, who announced this past week that he won't seek re- election; former Republican New York Congresswoman Susan Molinari -- emphasis on former -- and former New Jersey Governor and Democratic Senator Jon Corzine.
Again, you know, really interesting to me because all of you all have left. And I want to first address this question to you two.
Have you ever, looking back, wished you had stayed in the Senate?
CORZINE: I'm -- was blessed to be in the Senate; I enjoyed it, but I am an executive at heart. I think, if you talk to Evan, being a governor gives you a chance to set agendas and fight for the things that are most important things for the people that you serve. And I feel like it's a great, great position.
CROWLEY: So you haven't really ever thought of going back?
Not so much?
CORZINE: Not so much.
CROWLEY: How about you?
MOLINARI: You know, I -- I do miss it. I love it, and I'm one of those people who look at the House of Representatives and the United States Senate, and the men and women who work there, Republican and Democrat, and think they do one of the hardest jobs, in terms of making the country work and the tough decisions that they make.
And clearly, after 9/11, coming from New York, I really wanted to be back. And there were times that I thought about potentially running for the New York state senate again, but I left purely because of my kids, and wanted to have more flexibility to stay at home. I still think Washington is a pretty good place with some terrific people working here.
CROWLEY: I've always said -- when I describe Congress, I say the parts are always -- are infinitely better than the whole. A lot of good people come here and it's just somehow the combustion is interesting.
Senator Bayh, I wanted to talk to you. I talked a little bit, this week, with Norm Ornstein, who I'm sure you all know. He's actually watched Congress for more than 40 years. And I asked him what he thought the problem is. And I want to play you this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NORM ORNSTEIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: When people lived here with their families, they interacted together more. It's very hard to characterize a colleague as a traitor if you've spent weekends standing at the sidelines of the soccer game with them because your kids are both in school in the same area.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: So what happened? Why don't -- why doesn't that happen anymore?
BAYH: Well, the culture really has changed, Candy, and my take on it is somewhat similar to both Jon and Susan's. We have a lot of wonderful people, well-meaning people, but they're trapped in a system that's dysfunctional.
Part of that is because of the rules of Congress. Part of that's because of the way funds are raised. But part of it's cultural, and that's what Norm is talking about.
Back in my father's day, there was a lot more interaction. You had friendships across the aisle, regardless of partisanship, regardless of ideology.
CROWLEY: Is that because you all have to go fund-raise?
Is it because you have to be outside Washington so you can't bring your families to Washington?
BAYH: We have perpetual -- all of the above, and more. Our politics in Congress has become tribal in some ways. I mean, we have the tribe of the Democrats and tribe of the Republicans. And I think part of it's because of the caucus system. I mean, you look at yourselves as part of those tribes, rather than as people who come here, yes, with that informing your general outlook, but that's not all there is to life.
I heard governor Patrick say he's a loyal Democrat, but he's an American first. That's the kind of perspective that we need.
So anything we can do to get the members to talk to one another, to interact with one another in a non-adversarial setting, we're going to be a lot better off, relating to each other as human beings, Americans first, rather than members of a political party or with an ideology first.
CORZINE: Society down here, and I think, actually, in politics in general, winning has become the objective more than problem-solving or the common good. And -- and I think it infects both sides. I don't think it's one side or the other.
And so everything is focused on the election outcomes. And people have lost track that sometimes good people do things that may not be as politically attractive. Birch Bayh was a great United States senator, stood for all the right things.
CORZINE: Didn't win an election, but doesn't mean that his service was any less valuable or more important. In fact, it might actually have been more important, the things he fought for.
And so I think that we need to get focused on the common good, and I think some of that is missing.
CROWLEY: How do you do that? I mean, probably the House is as partisan as the Senate, certainly. It's just that it's easier to drive legislation through in the House because of the rules. When you were in Congress, did you hang out with Democrats, did you?
MOLINARI: Of course I did. You know, Speaker Pelosi was a dear friend of mine. Nita Lowey, Congresswoman Nita Lowey from New York. I think women have a tendency sometimes to ban together a little better than the men.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's testosterone poisoning. It's not our fault.
MOLINARI: You said it. You said it, I didn't. But at the same time, look, I do think that maybe we are entering a phase where this president understands what he needs to do in order to move some of this legislation, because things were not -- I mean, look, we had people who were saying George Bush wasn't, you know, elected by all the people, just by the Supreme Court, and yet he was able to pass some pretty large pieces of legislation. No Child Left Behind, prescription drugs. President Clinton had a time when we were pretty partisan, you know, passed major legislation in terms of welfare reform and a crime bill.
What you have to do, though, as a president, is to stand up and say, here's what my priorities are. Here's my bill. Here's what I stand for. And then, allow the Congress to pick it apart as best they can, knowing what you are going to stand for and what you don't. And hopefully, when it comes to some of these issues that the president and Congress have been trying to deal with, he will provide a little more leadership.
I think that's what you need. It doesn't mean everybody is going to get along, but it means that they may actually come up with some legislation.
BAYH: Can I make a couple of points, Candy? Number one, I believe the president is making a genuine effort to try and reach out and forge bipartisan consensus, but he needs some cooperation from the Congress, and both parties are to blame, frankly. On the Republican side, they have some short-term tactical political advantages here that they are just not willing to let go of, even to address the public's business. You saw that on the debt commission vote. I mean, seven members and their leader who had supported the idea suddenly said, no, we don't want the Democrats to look fiscally responsible with the election coming up, so we're not going to do that, even though we've all said it's what's right for the country.
On our side, we have got some folks, who -- well-intended people, they have fervent beliefs -- but they are not willing to settle for half a loaf when the alternative is none. They are too driven by ideology. They need to be a little more pragmatic. So you get some of that on both sides.
Last thing I'd mention. Jon referred to my father's time. In my father's day, there was a saying in the Senate, you're legislating for four years; you campaign for two. We now have perpetual campaigns. They never stop. My first day in the Senate, and the first discussion was let's talk about the next election. That was two years away. Part of that is driven by the constant need to raise funds. If you're just out there fund-raising all the time, then things political are on your mind. And that does not help.
CORZINE: That shows up in the declaration of failure that you hear about a president that has barely been in office a year, and has passed one of the most major stimulus programs in the history of the country that is working its way through a system. I think you guys say only about a third of it has actually been spent.
There needs to be a sense of let's try to get things done and let them take a strategic course. You know, there is instant gratification demanded by the political system because of this incessant view of nonstop (inaudible).
MOLINARI: (inaudible), but you know what, if you really want to sit down with Republicans and get them to the table, you can't start off every conversation by saying I did not create this mess, I inherited this mess. OK, team, let's sit down and work. I mean, I used to sit down with some of my Democrat friends when we would forge a compromise and I would say, OK, deal. I'll help work with the Republicans, you can't start the debate with right-wing extremism. I mean, sometimes we have to as leaders tone our debate down if we really do want to have people sitting at the table.
CROWLEY: But is the genie out of the bottle? I mean, this is great, I think you're exactly right, that, you know, the tone, the constant campaigning and fund-raising and the look at the next election on the day after the last one, that's not going to change, is it?
MOLINARI: No. No. But I don't think the genie is out of the bottle. I think the optimism that the American people show does get translated to some pieces of legislation, and I think at the end of the Obama presidency, there will be some significant pieces of legislation if people are willing to work across the aisle, drop some -- move more towards the center, which is really what has been done in all these cases that we talked about, whether it was prescription drugs or the crime bill for President Clinton. There had to be an acknowledgement that we needed to move towards the center.
CROWLEY: I want to play one quick thing for you just because we're talking about fixes and how to fix things. This from a former colleague of yours, Congresswoman, and had this to say about your departure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BARNEY FRANK, D-MASS.: I don't see how you change something by quitting it or leaving it, whether it's Senator Bayh or Governor Palin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: I am not sure you'd like the company you are in, but nonetheless -- (LAUGHTER)
CROWLEY: But the fact remains, why didn't you stay and fight? Why say, look, I'm done with this, I'm an executive, I'm leaving? Why not stay and make it different?
BAYH: Candy, I reached the conclusion that I can make a bigger contribution in another capacity. As Jon mentioned, I am an executive at heart, and I am hopeful that we can reform Congress. But I did not want to wait around six years hoping that would happen.
There are things -- we are not going to take the politics out of politics, that is true, but there are parts of the institution we can reform, and perhaps over the next 11 months, as a truth teller, not as broker, somebody who has no stake in the game right now, I can help make that happen. You know, the fund-raising aspect, the filibuster aspect. So I am going to continue fighting. I have devoted my entire adult life to public service. I simply concluded that creating jobs, running a university, helping with the foundation and philanthropy, that's something real and tangible right now I can do to help people. Months go by in Congress, months, and we don't get things done.
CROWLEY: Stick with me for the next segment first, and we will have more insight from our panel about fixing what's wrong with Washington right after this.
CROWLEY: We are back with Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, former Congresswoman Susan Molinari from New York and former senator, former Governor Jon Corzine. We thank you all for being here.
CROWLEY: Want to get to something that you all eluded to and show a map of the districts that are out there, and this pertains mostly to the House. If you look at this map, what you find out is that 179 House seats are considered safe. They are very, very blue. Very, very red, 155 Republican districts. So you have an enormous number of districts that are not in play, and there is no stake for a blue district Democrat in reaching across the aisle. So isn't part of the problem that we have just so cut up this country into OK, you have all the Democrats here and you have all the Republicans, isn't that part of the problem?
CORZINE: Absolutely. The redistricting, and the filibuster and campaign finance are probably the process issues that are undermining the willingness for people to do what historically the Everett Dirksens did, which is reach across the aisle in a serious way to bring people in. And those processes are getting more and more cemented.
MOLINARI: Well, it's even more than that. They are not only cemented, but because there are the red states and the blue states, you not only don't get any benefit from reaching across the aisle, if you reach across the aisle, you may be in danger as a primary challenge by those who are more liberal or more conservative on either plan, so you not only don't get a benefit, but you can get a primary challenge.
BAYH: No question, Candy, the gerrymander has really damaged the House of Representatives, because your real election is in the primaries, so that makes you much more beholden to the most fervent elements in your party.
Some of that is creeping over into the Senate now and what really needs to happen -- I would think the vast majority of your viewers consider themselves to be moderate and independent, and they need to step up here and take the government back and say look, we're not going to reward strident partisanship or just braindead ideology.
We want practical people who are going to focus on our solutions. We're going to get involved and make the system better. It is either going to take that, or what I would call exogenous events, something outside the system. 9/11 for a few weeks after that, things were better, we were focused on the country. My most likely scenario for that would be an economic crisis, even more than the one we've had, a run on the dollar because of our deficits, a tremendous spike in interest rates. It shouldn't come to that. It need not come to that. CROWLEY: I want to play you something -- I'm sorry, I want to read something from Lincoln Chafee, who is no partisan, as you know. He was a Republican when he was in the Senate. running as an Independent now. He wrote an op/ed as well in the "New York Times" today, in which he was talking about the president. He said, "His difficult first year in office can be traced I believe to his appointment of the hyper- partisan Rahm Emanuel as the White House chief of staff, and his failure to devise a stimulus bill that could win a single Republican vote in the House," which is what you have eluded to. Do you agree with that assessment, because can we blame Washington gridlock solely on Capitol Hill?
CORZINE: It takes two to create challenges, and we were talking during the break that people could argue about a bottoms up Congress- driven formulation of the stimulus package or health care, and it makes it more unshaped and makes it harder to have the debate, so people could argue about that being part of the reason that there is slow motion on some of these issues.
I don't -- I don't think you can lay this at the doorstep of an individual picking on Rahm Emanuel or anybody else. I think there are these real issues that we were talking about, the shaping of the House of Representatives, the 60-vote majority, the discipline that is particularly in the Republican Party by elements in the right that hold people accountable, and makes it very difficult for people to be moderate.
MOLINARI: Although Governor, I would suggest as we have discussed, we were pretty partisan under Bush 43, and pretty partisan under Bill Clinton, and yet major pieces of legislation were passed. And I do think, and I don't know what happens at this White House, so I don't know who it is, but you do have an obligation as the president of the United States not to just stand up and say, "I want health care reform and I want financial services reform, I want bills to stimulate the economy."
You have to lay down what those markers are as president, as the leader of the country, and then allow Congress to do some, you know, changes around the edges. But to say what your priorities are, we are about to enter a week where we are going to deal with health care, and there is going to be a health care summit. Is public option on the table or off the table? Shouldn't we at least have a signal from the president of the United States as to where he stands on funding, public option, and a few other things.
CROWLEY: I'm going to ask you all that question actually, we have to take a break, but this one more question for you is regarding exactly what you are talking about, and it will be one of the issues we talk about next week. I want you to take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON STEWART, TALK SHOW HOST: Here is what is going on that is new in health care.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama has invited Republican leaders of Congress to join him and Democrats at Blair House across the street from the White House here for a televised summit on health care reform.
STEWART: About time! An open, transparent substantive conversation on one of the most pressing issues of our day, or to put it another way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republicans are smart enough to know, this means a little bit of a trap.
DANA BASH, CNN SR. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Walking into a potential trap.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He hopes to set a trap.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course it's a trap.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Nothing more than a trap.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a trap!
STEWART: I know you may think that being asked to attend a conversation where you are given ample time to prepare is not generally considered a trap, which is why it's such a brilliant trap.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: When we come back, we are going to ask, is it a trap?
CROWLEY: Now for our final questions with Senator Evan Bayh, Susan Molinari and Jon Corzine. So, senator, if in the spirit of bipartisanship, can you understand why Republicans think that they have been set up to come to a televised discussion on health care where the president has the seal in front of him and he's up in the podium and he's great at this, do you understand why Republicans think they're being trapped here?
BAYH: Well, it does evince a certain lack of confidence. I mean, you know, of course, the president is a great communicator. He's very intelligent. And of course, going up, having a discussion with someone like that does run the risk of putting you perhaps in not your most favorable light. But that depends on whether you have good ideas, if communicate yourself. That's what democracy is all about.
So I don't view this as a trap. I think we ought to look at it as an opportunity to sit down and have a genuine discussion. Two things need to happen, Candy, the Republicans need to check their short-term political advantage at the door. They're probably tempted to say, you know what, nothing works pretty well for us between now and November. Just having gridlock, that's not in the best interest of the country.
The Democrats need to check some of their ideology at the door and say, you know what, we may not be able to get everything we want, but perhaps we can agree with these folks on some things. Let's get that done and argue about the rest. So let's look at this as an opportunity, even though it may present both sides with some, you know, tactical issues they have to address.
CROWLEY: What do you think? I mean, I think the Republican argument is, listen, they're already preparing to put health care legislation on the fast track basically. And they're just getting us there so that we look like we're being the partisan ones and not them.
MOLINARI: You know what, I think they have an obligation to go. They understand that. The Republicans are going. I think they can actually work this. I think it is a trap, but I think it's one that can play to the Republicans' benefit because they do have several pieces of legislation. I think there's at least four Republican bills on health care.
So if this gives them an opportunity to say, here are the five or six things that we will agree on immediately in terms of what needs to be done in the states, helping governors on health care reform, if they can communicate that to the American people, I think maybe it does put some pressure on -- for the moderates in the Democratic Party to say, you know what, we agree with that, too. Maybe that's where we start the new foundation of discussion.
So I actually think if played well and played fair, this can be a good opportunity.
CROWLEY: And, Governor, the chances of that happening are about what?
CORZINE: I think, based on how I'm reading what's going on -- I'm not an insider these days, looks a little bit slim before you get started. We need somebody to stand up the way Ted Kennedy stood up on Leave No Child Behind or the prescription drug benefit for seniors, to work with the president, and that needs to have bipartisan effort, and I think the president is making a legitimate offering to make that happen, and I hope that we follow through.
BAYH: But, Candy, think of what it has come to in Washington, how cynical this place has become. Think what would happen if the president was not willing to talk to the Republicans. People would be outraged by that. So this is...
BAYH: So let's look at this as a genuine opportunity, it's going to be televised to the nation, both sides will be judged on how they behave. Maybe this is a moment where the pressure is on for everyone to behave reasonably, to look for those areas where we can agree, to get the progress that is done in place, and then move on and talk about everything else.
MOLINARI: I agree 100 percent. I just think it would have been more helpful if they didn't start mentioning reconciliation as the potential end product before the summit even convened.
CROWLEY: We'll come back after the summit some time and see how they did. Thank you all very much for joining us. I really appreciate it.
MOLINARI: Thank you. And congratulations.
CROWLEY: Thank you very much.
CORZINE: Good luck.
Let's check some of the other stories that are breaking this Sunday. The death toll rises off the coast of Portugal. At least 40 people killed and more than 100 others hurt after heavy rains slammed the resort island of Madeira, spawning massive mudslides, river rapids of mud and debris have caused serious damage to infrastructure. And that's hobbling the rescue effort. An untold number of people remain missing.
Apolo Anton Ohno is now the most decorated American in the history of the Winter Olympics. The speed skater won a bronze medal in the short track race last night in Vancouver. That brings his medal count to seven, breaking a long tie with long-track speed skater Bonnie Blair. Ohno may continue to add to his total when he competes in two other events this week.
Congressman Ron Paul, the surprise favorite among conservatives at the annual CPAC meeting in Washington. The libertarian from Texas won the group's presidential straw poll, a vote seen as a barometer of how conservative Republicans view potential candidates. Congressman Paul captured 31 percent of the vote. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney won second place with 22 percent. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin came in a distant third with 7 percent. Those are your top stories here on STATE OF THE UNION. When we come back, our "American Dispatch." A funny thing that happened on the way to the CPAC convention, the conservative pin-up girls.
CROWLEY: This weekend the nation's conservatives gathered here in D.C. with a passion challenging the New Orleans "who dat?" folks. I spent some time there covering the story, listening to speeches, talking to people in the hallways, which is where I came upon the true believer souvenir area. In the battle for young voters, these people are fighting Obama charisma with Republican charisma with posters for the college bound.
There is Sarah Palin at her two-foot by three-foot best, suitable for any dorm room wall. But to top that, there's a poster for polemicist Ann Coulter. Who, you may say? Here, we say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANN COULTER, WRITER: The fact that a Republican is in the late Senator Kennedy's old seat must have him rolling in his grave, probably spilling his drink.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Ann Coulter ready to grace the wall of the conservative big man on campus. Shades of Farrah Fawcett. As we said, conservative passion.
Today is just the beginning of CNN's series on "Broken Government." Up next for our North American viewers, Fareed Zakaria continues our coverage with former Secretary of State James Baker.
And tune in to CNN throughout the week for more reports. Thanks for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington.