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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY
Interview With Newt Gingrich; Interview With Debbie Wasserman Schultz; Interview With John McCain; Interview With John Lewis
Aired October 16, 2011 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: Cain catches on, but the party establishment gels around Mitt. Can any candidate stop the Romney run?
Today, 2012 prospects with presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and through the Democratic prism with party chair woman Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Then Republican veteran John McCain on jobs, Iran and politics.
And as the MLK memorial is dedicated, the hero's hero -- Representative John Lewis on Martin Luther King.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN LEWIS, (D) GEORGIA: He made me a stronger, better human being.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley. And this is State of the Union.
Four months ago one prominent Beltway blog said of Newt Gingrich's troubled presidential run -- he looks a lot like the Bruce Willis character in the Sixth Sense, everyone but him thinks he's dead. But at last week's Washington Post/Bloomberg debate Gingrich remained very much alive and kicking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: All of the spending cuts that are built in the debt ceiling bill, all of them are acts of congress. They can all be repealed at any moment. It is nonsense to say we're going to disarm the United States unilaterally because we're too stupid to balance the budget any other way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Former house speaker and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich joins me now very much alive and kicking.
GINGRICH: Good to be with you.
CROWLEY: Let me talk to you first about some things that are in the news. Let's pretend that President Gingrich is in the White House. You received word and uncover a plot to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. in the U.S. There is a money trail that leads you to the government of Iran and some sector of it. Do you what?
GINGRICH: Continue the strategy that a Gingrich administration would have to undermine and replace the dictatorship.
CROWLEY: In what way?
GINGRICH: Using all the techniques President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher and Pope John Paul II used to destroy the Soviet empire. I think our goal should be the replacement of the Iranian dictatorship with a maximum amount of effort to rouse students, to arouse young people, to arouse ethnic dissent, to finance every possible element of opposition to build a radio and television-free Iran and to apply every possible economic sanction, including ultimately if necessary cutting off gasoline so that the regime collapses.
We will never, ever be safe if the North Korean and Iranian dictatorships survive. And we need to understand these are long-term strategic problems. This is one more tactical example of a war. They've been waging war against us since 1979. They think so. They plan for it. They kill us. They have plots around the world. They support terrorist organizations. And we -- at a strategic level the United States is absolutely clueless about what we should be doing.
CROWLEY: Well, but the president certainly has done his best when there were demonstrators on the streets early on in his administration, he was encouraging, they haven't put sanctions on them...
GINGRICH: No. You look at his confused statements about Iran and his confused statements about reaching out and talking with the regime and then you look at how much he supported the demonstrators in Egypt. Look how much he supported the effort in Libya.
We have done nothing of consequence to systematically undermine this regime. You just asked what would a Gingrich administration do. The Gingrich administration would have said to the country, see? This is one more in a 32-year process of waging war against us and is further proof of why we need to replace the dictatorship.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you also about something that's just in the news in the past 24 hours. And that is that the Obama administration is sending 100 U.S. troops to Central Africa to advise those who are staging an anti-insurgency against the Lords Resistance Army, one of the most brutal insurgencies on the face of the earth at this moment.
So 100 U.S. advisers are going in there most of them, we are told, or many of them at least, are special ops troops. Good idea?
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, I wish we would just be honest or say nothing. I don't think you send special ops troops in there with instructions not to kill anybody.
CROWLEY: Which were said they were going in as an advisory manner...
GINGRICH: I'm just saying. If the United States should intervene in a way that works, if it should a black operation, don't say anything about it, our guys show up, our technology shows up, the other side loses, we quietly go off again. If it is going to be overt operation, say we will now do what it takes to make sure we achieve our objectives. Period. That should be the rule of engagement.
Some kind of nonsensical we really don't want to shoot you but we're sending armed troops -- and we know it's a dangerous area, but really I would like not to do anything. It is just stupid. I mean, it doesn't make any sense.
The other question I would just raise with the president and congress is if you can't control the American border, why do you find places to disperse our forces at a time when you talk about cutting the defense budget? This is an evil person, this is a bad group of people, they're doing horrible things.
CROWLEY: And it is a hotbed for terrorism.
GINGRICH: Well, so is Somalia and so is Yemen.
I'm just saying, we have an almost feckless attraction, like bunch ball for children at soccer, to go to the next spot. What you need is, a -- a grand strategy, b, a sense of priorities. I would argue controlling the American border ought to be a much higher priority. But also, what happens next?
I mean Somalia -- I was in Congress during Blackhawk Down. I watched the United States under Clinton make a total mess of Somalia. Somalia is a disaster area. The Yemen is decaying.
So you look around the world and you say, how many places are there terrorist groups? West Africa has had horrible human rights violations, comparable to Uganda. I don't think we have any kind of larger strategy so we sort of respond to the press clippings of the minute or TV coverage of the minute and it doesn't, in the long run, serve the U.S. well. And frankly, it doesn't serve the humanitarian interest of people well.
CROWLEY: And let me bring you home to unemployment. If congress does not act, employment benefits for the long term unemployed, about six months or more, will expire on 2.1 million unemployed people in February. Would that be OK under a Gingrich administration or should those long-term unemployment benefits be extended again?
GINGRICH: Let me talk about right now since my administration doesn't start until January of 2013. I would urge the congress to pass an extension with a training requirement and to tie the training requirement to businesses that need work.
There are over 3 million unfilled jobs in the United States because we have a work force which is no longer trained for modern jobs. If somebody is going to get money for 99 weeks -- and they may need money for 99 weeks -- that's long enough to get an associate degree. We should not give people money for doing nothing.
So from day one if you sign up for unemployment compensation, you should also be signing up to get trained. We should expect you to actually succeed at the training, and we should have some kind of metric to follow it.
CROWLEY: This sounds a little bit like what the president has proposed... GINGRICH: There's some parallels. This has been done in Georgia, it's been done I believe in New Hampshire. The goal would be to make sure that every person who needs help gets it, but in return for getting help, they are improving their capacity to work, they are learning new skills, they're being taught by businesses and I think you could do it at a very inexpensive level and I think businesses would flock. You talk to people, for example, in the National Association of Manufacturers where there's a real shortage of skilled labor.
If you talk to people in -- there was an article recently that in Fresno, California there are like 3,000 jobs that are -- that can't get filled and there are like 3,000 unemployed people who don't have the skills. Well, if you turn unemployment compensation into a worker training program, no more money for doing nothing, you suddenly have a huge improvement in human capital in the United States.
CROWLEY: Let me turn to you to just good old-fashioned politics. What do you make of the Cain boomlet which seems to ride, in part, on perhaps some reluctance to sign on to Romney, but also in part because of his 999 plan, a plan to have income tax at 9 percent, and a sales tax at 9 percent and corporate taxes at 9 percent.
GINGRICH: I think three things are happening. First of all of, Herman Cain is a terrific person. He is a great, wonderful human story. He is a very enthusiastic and very competent person. And I think there's a certain attractiveness to Herman that a lot of people find very genuine. He's a good friend of mine and I'm delighted for him that he's having this kind of run. I wouldn't want it to go to the nomination but I'm delighted that he's having this kind of run.
Second, I think Perry stumbled. Perry was the natural alternative to Romney and if Perry had had a flawless campaign, he would have been the nominee. He stumbled enough in the debates that there was a vacuum created.
CROWLEY: Is he done? Is Perry done?
GINGRICH: No, nobody's done in this business. At this stage last time McCain was in third place. At this stage in 1991 Bill Clinton was an asterisk. I think he had like 2 percent. You know, this is a wide open process.
The third thing, though, which I find the establishment media can't come to grips with, Mitt Romney has a huge problem. He's a very likable person. He works very hard. He's very smart. And he is a Massachusetts moderate Republican. It is the Nelson Rockefeller problem. I mean, there is a natural ceiling. And if you go back and look at the race last time, he ran into a natural ceiling.
CROWLEY: But it is a natural ceiling in the primary, is it a natural ceiling ion the -- because in head-to-heads he tends do better against this president.
GINGRICH: Well, and Rockefeller always did better in the general election run but the problem is if you can't get the nomination you don't get to go head-to-head.
And Mitt's challenge is going to be that -- because he's now been running for six years -- that people look and they say, well, not yet. You know, so again and again -- I mean, there's a certain truth to the Saturday Night Live skit.
The challenge for somebody like me is to have -- because I am a very complicated candidate, right? We have a "21st Century Contract with America" that's at newt.org. We're having thousands of people download it. It is gradually circulating. I am deliberately running a campaign of substance.
If Herman figures out how to do it all right and if he can explain a 9 percent sales tax so people decide they want it, he has a good chance to be the nominee. If, however, in New Hampshire, for example, where they have no sales tax at all and no mechanism for collecting it, or in Iowa where senior citizens are going to say, wait a second, as my 79-year-old mother-in-law said on her Social Security, in her fixed income she's now going to pay 9 percent more?
Herman has a -- as people look at 999 and disaggregate it, it gets to be a lot harder sale, I think.
CROWLEY: And maybe leave an opening, I suspect, you hope, for Newt Gingrich.
GINGRICH: Well, that's our goal.
CROWLEY: Mr. Speaker, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
Up next, Congresswoman and Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz on her party's plans for 2012.
CROWLEY: Joining me from her home state of Florida, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, thank you so much for being here. Let me start out with a big piece of business on Capitol Hill, and that is coming up with some kind of jobs bill that might move the meter on the 9.1 percent unemployment rate. On your side, you have a bill that's essentially the president's bill that Congressman Larson has put out there with only a handful of Democratic co-sponsors. Why is that?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, the co-sponsorship is really not reflective of the widespread support that exists in the Democratic caucus and in the country for the American jobs act. You know, polling shows overwhelming support for Congress to pass the entire bill. It's absolutely critical.
We've got economists like Mark Zandi who say that the American jobs act would add 2 percentage points to the GDP, drop the unemployment rate by about 1 percent. I mean, those are a real shot in the arm to the economy that would create jobs now. And it has got widespread support, not just among Democrats but by Americans.
Sadly, Republicans, because they're only interested in one job, Barack Obama's, don't seem to be interested in getting jobs created now.
CROWLEY: So the challenge will be for Democrats and Republicans to come together to do something. Because the reality is, their bill is rolled out in the Senate, is not going to be acceptable in its totality for Democrats, and Republicans don't like what is the president's bill.
So it seems to me that you all have some hard bargaining coming up. And I wanted to play you something from the Republican radio address which comes from Congressman McCarthy and what he had to say about this jobs bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MAJORITY WHIP: The president needs to get off the sidelines and get involved. The president needs to come off the campaign trail and get to work. In the spirit of working together on jobs, I urge the president to call on leaders in his party to follow the House. Listen to the American people. Stop pushing ideas we know won't work and pass these jobs bills.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: So Kevin McCarthy from the Republican leadership. They're in charge over there. Is the president -- because he has been criticized even by Democrats in the past for not being actively involved in saying, here's what I want, here's what I'll back. Do you sense that this time around the president is more actively involved?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: My colleague, Mr. McCarthy's comments just do not pass the straight face test. The president has been out there stumping around the country for jobs, for people to press their member of Congress, Republican and Democrat, to pass the American jobs act.
What is it that, Candy, that Republicans are opposed to? Are they opposed to putting veterans and teachers and first responders like firefighters and police officers back to work? Are they opposed to extending the payroll tax cut and adding one to small businesses to put an average of $1,500 a year in families' pockets? Are they opposed to fixing bridges and building roads?
This is -- the American jobs act would be an immediate shot in the arm to the economy that would create jobs now. The so-called Republican jobs bill would just allow corporate America to write their own rules again. And it has been analyzed to conclude they would create no jobs now. There isn't even a certainty it would create any jobs at all. No one has found any evidence that it would. So at the end of the day, we need jobs now. That's what the American people are clamoring for. The public needs to get on-board.
CROWLEY: As you know, though, that while we can ascribe all kinds of motives to the Republicans about wanting to keep the president to a one-term presidency, when they took a vote in the Senate on the president's bill, there were two Democrats who voted against them.
One of them was Senator John Tester, a senator from Montana. He's up for re-election. And he said that he voted against it because it simply didn't produce enough jobs. And part of what he wrote was: "Only 20 percent of the $447 billion," which the president's bill would cost, "was dedicated to physical infrastructure and only about half of that money would have been able right away. Over $250 billion of the bill was devoted to temporary tax gimmicks that do not create jobs." He's talking here about continuing the so-called holiday for payroll taxes.
So, this is not a man looking to unseat President Obama. This is a man running for his own re-election, and doesn't that tell you something about a constituency out there that isn't ready to accept the president's plan?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, look, we are not a party that demands unanimity, by any means. Majority of the United States Senate voted in favor of moving on the American Jobs Act.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: And because of Republican's interest in only Barack Obama's job -- I mean, Mitch McConnell -- we can only take them at their word, Candy, and Mitch McConnell said at the beginning of this Congress that his number one priority was defeating Barack Obama, not creating jobs.
And I have tremendous respect for Senator Tester, but, you know, to be opposed to legislation because it doesn't do enough when we can't even get the Republicans to support what the president has proposed, you know, I have respect for his opinion but the American people right now need us to put a shot in the arm to the economy so that we can continue to get it turned around.
You know, we've stopped the economy from dropping like a rock, like it was before President Obama took office. We've begun to turn things around but we need to pick up the pace of recovery and we need that short-term infusion so that we can do that.
And we need Republicans and Democrats to work together. You know, where is the leadership on the Republican side? You want to talk about sitting on the sidelines? They're the ones that have just been crossing their arms and hoping for failure.
I mean, how could -- it's so irresponsible for them to allow the economy to just remain stagnant, you know, so that they can get a political...
CROWLEY: I think they would disagree...
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: ... victory in the election next year.
CROWLEY: Right. I think they would say they don't want the economy to stay stagnant but they have different ideas. But let me move you on to a couple of things. And one is...
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: They should offer them.
CROWLEY: There is the super committee out there that, by the end of this year, has to have a vote on $1.2 trillion worth of cuts, and without which, any agreement there, if there is no agreement in Congress, there will be huge cuts in defense, along with domestic problems as well.
But Leon Panetta, the defense secretary, said, no, this would be really damaging. Are you completely comfortable with the default position which, by law, would require these deep cuts in the Defense Department?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: What I'm comfortable with is that Republicans and Democrats should come together on that super committee and that the leadership should press their members -- the Republican leadership should press their members to do what President Obama and Speaker Boehner...
CROWLEY: But would you be comfortable if it comes...
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: ... originally planned to do.
CROWLEY: ... to the trigger? If it comes to the trigger, would you be comfortable with the sorts of cuts that would be required of the Defense Department?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We need the kind of balance that the mandate of the super committee would produce. I'm comfortable if we balance cuts with revenue, asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share to make sure that we don't only focus on the benefits for the wealthiest Americans.
That we need to make sure we do this with revenue and cuts. The default is, you know, not the worst option but it would certainly be better than the Republican proposal to get to $1.2 trillion, which is piling all the cuts on the backs of the middle class. That's unacceptable.
CROWLEY: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thank you so much for joining us this Sunday morning. Appreciate it. Up next, a live report from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Dedication ceremony.
CROWLEY: The dedication for the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial is under way here in Washington, and CNN's Joe Johns is there following the ceremony -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Candy. Dr. Christine King Farris, the sister of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, now on the stage, one of just a number of speakers here at the dedication of this memorial. A beautiful sun-drenched morning in Washington, D.C., with many thousands of people here. No guess on the size of the crowd simply because the United States Parks Service doesn't give estimates like that.
This will go on through midday here on the East Coast. One of the highlights so far this morning, the choir of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, where Martin Luther King was a preacher. Let's listen to a little bit of the music from earlier today.
JOHNS: Real cross-section of people here. I spent some time wandering around in the crowd talking to some of these individuals. There are a lot of people with direct memories, if you will, of Martin Luther King Jr., as well as some people with no memories at all.
I talked to a couple of 18 year-olds, Howard University students, who admitted to me they had never even heard the entire Martin Luther King "I Have a Dream" speech, which he gave out here in August of 1963 -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Joe Johns, thank you so much. And later on today, our audience will get a chance to hear that entire Martin Luther King speech.
And later this hour, someone who does remember Martin Luther King, civil rights icon, Congressman John Lewis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEWIS: If it hadn't been for Martin Luther King Jr., we would be a divided nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: But after the break, Senator John McCain talks jobs and 2012 politics.
CROWLEY: Joining me from Phoenix, Senator John McCain of Arizona. Senator, thank you so much for being up at this early hour out there.
I want to start out with Iran and the plot against the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S., an assassination plot which would have occurred here in the U.S.
We had Newt Gingrich on earlier in the show and he talked about taking a tougher stance toward Iran, not like going and bomb them in retaliation for this, but that squeezing them out of office and trying to sort of help demonstrators there and do what we can to help the opposition.
Do you think that President Obama has been too soft on Iran?
MCCAIN: Well, I think his policy of engagement with Iran has clearly been a failure, beginning when he failed to acknowledge or support the demonstrators back in early 2009 who were chanting in the streets, "Obama, are you with us or with them?" And this policy of engagement has clearly failed.
I think also the president should seek severe sanctions against the Iranians. I think we shall get tough with the Chinese and the Russians who have clearly blocked meaningful measures and I, as president, I think that covert activities of some kind should be considered.
CROWLEY: Do you have any doubt that they aren't already under way?
MCCAIN: I don't know, Candy. It is hard for me to speculate since I'm not brought into those discussions. But there's no doubt that this country is a rogue nation that has sent IEDs to Iraq which has killed young Americans. They are destabilizing, trying to destabilize Bahrain. They are supporting terrorist organizations, Hamas and Hezbollah.
It is time the American people were told by the president of all of the activities that the Iranians have engaged in, which really are a destabilizing factor in the Middle East, but also throughout the world.
CROWLEY; As you bring up Iraq, let me just ask you this. There have been stories coming up lately about the inevitable withdrawal of U.S. troops at the end of the year of the administration talking about leaving some troops there, maybe up to 5,000, 6,000. There are 41,000 troops there now. What happens if that number is brought down to nearly zero at the end of the year? Let's say negotiations to keep some troops there with the Iraqi government fail.
What is the outcome of not having more than just a handful of troops that would normally be there to protect the embassy in Iraq?
MCCAIN: Well, this whole issue has been terribly mishandled. And it would take your entire show for me to describe how all that happened. But the fact is that there is a very volatile areas between the Kurdish areas in Iraq in the north that needs peacekeeping forces. They need technical assistance on intelligence. They need help with their air assets, which they have literally none. And this has been terribly mishandled in my view by the administration.
We needed about 13,000 troops left behind and the fact is, now the...
CROWLEY: So what happens if they aren't?
MCCAIN: I think there's a greater risk of renewed violence, of continued Iranian penetration into Iraq that's already happening in Southern Iraq, and the possibility of further destabilization and polarization, a possible return to sectarian violence. And all of these things is because we have just very badly mishandled and mismanaged the entire situation.
CROWLEY: Let me sweep around the world here to Central Africa where we are told the administration is sending about 100 U.S. troops to Central Africa to advise the anti-insurgency there, which is up against the Lords Resistance Army. It is hard to find brutality like the sort that has been inflicted by the Lords Resistance Army in that area of the world.
We're sending in these troops. We're told that many of them are special ops. Do you -- I know you wanted the president to be more informative to congress, to ask for congressional approval. But beyond that, do you see any danger in this and was this a good idea? MCCAIN: First of all, I think as you described, one of the most horrible groups ever to inhabit the earth is this Lords Resistance Army. And I think it is appropriate for us to do what we can to prevent and eradicate them.
It is a big part of the world. We don't know any of the details. I remember Somalia. I remember Lebanon. We've got to be very careful about how we engage. This slippery slope thing could happen there.
CROWLEY: Do you think this is humanitarian or do you think this is about getting a foothold in an area that can breed terrorist activity?
MCCAIN: I think it's mainly humanitarian in this case.
This guy Kony and this Lord's Resistance Army are guilty of unspeakable behavior and the human rights organizations all over the world want this to stop. I worry about with the best of intentions we somehow get engaged in a commitment that we can't get out of, that's happened before in our history and we need an explanation.
And I'm very disappointed, again, that the administration is not consulted with members of congress before taking such action. I've been under four presidents, and this is the least communicative with congress of any administration that I've ever seen. And maybe it has something to do with the polarization of politics, but it is unfortunate.
CROWLEY: On a domestic issue, I wanted to put up for our audience an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll of October 10th. And the question was, do you favor or oppose President Obama's jobs plan? 63 percent of Americans favor the president's jobs plan, 32 percent oppose.
Does not -- you have introduced a jobs bill on behalf of Republicans this week, along with some others. But the question here is, the big mantra of politicians is always, this is what the American people want, let's do what the American people want. It seems to me that 63 percent supporting the president's jobs program is what the American people want. Why can't you all pass that?
MCCAIN: Well, I think, first of all, it's always in how these things are presented. If anybody's for punishing rich people and the kind of, frankly, demagoguery that the president has engaged in on this issue, I understand that. I think if you ran a poll on our proposal it would also favor -- it would also receive favorable response and opinion from the American people.
But instead of being out on the campaign trail, and saying pass it now -- and by the way, a majority of the Senate would have voted it down if it had been an up or down vote on the bill, it was just a procedural vote that he barely got 50 on.
MCCAIN: Don't you think it is time that Americans had a relief from regulations, had a relief from taxes, had a relief from the burdens that have been imposed on government which have really -- by government which have caused us to be in the longest recession since the Great Depression?
It is time the president came off the campaign trail, sat down and negotiated and talked with us and see areas of common ground. For example, simplification of the tax code. Have you met anyone who doesn't favor simplification of the tax code?
CROWLEY: I haven't, Senator.
MCCAIN: We want to reduce the tax -- we want to reduce it from 35 to 25 and close loopholes and give people a fairer, flat tax. We want a moratorium on regulation so that business people will have a predictable environment which to invest and create jobs.
MCCAIN: ... we've got to addressing housing crisis.
CROWLEY: To be continued, sir. I wish we could go back on all of those but come back and join us and we will. Thank you so much.
Up next, we look into the life of a man who called Martin Luther King Jr. his mentor, Congressman John Lewis.
CROWLEY: Martin Luther King called him "the boy from Troy." For almost a quarter century now, they have called him congressman. John Lewis was born outside Troy, Alabama. He tended to the chickens on his parents' farm and went to segregated schools. Listening to the weekly radio sermons of Dr. King and news of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Lewis drew the inspiration that fueled a lifetime.
At college he organized sit-ins at segregated lunch counters, went on Freedom Rides to protest segregated interstate bus terminals. In 1963 at the age of 23 he was elected chairman of the Student Non- Violent Coordinating Committee and named one of the big six leaders of the civil rights movement.
Like his friend and mentor, Martin Luther King, John Lewis was a front-liner in the civil rights movement. He was beaten and seriously injured, arrested more than 40 times, but to this day, holds fast to his belief in non-violent protest.
Up next, the youngest speaker to address the March on Washington 48 years ago, Congressman John Lewis.
CROWLEY: Earlier I spoke with Democratic Congressman John Lewis, the youngest and last surviving speaker from 1963's historic March on Washington. I asked him to reflect on that day and on the life of Dr. King.
LEWIS: On that day, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and shared his dream with the American people. He said he had a dream, a dream that was in keeping with the American dream. I can never, ever forget that day.
Dr. King had the ability to transform those steps on the Lincoln Memorial into a modern day pulpit. And I can hear him speaking right now. Right now. You could tell, he was so pleased that everything had gone so well. He knew he was preaching. He knew he was getting the message over.
And at one time he just put his hand into the air, his arm, he was pleased. And after the march was all over, you know? President Kennedy invited us down to the White House. He stood in the door of the Oval Office and he greeted each one of us. He was like a proud father that everything had gone so well. He said, "you did a good job, you did a good job." And when he got to Dr. King, he said, "you had a dream."
CROWLEY: What does the dedication of this memorial mean to you personally?
LEWIS: The dedication of this memorial just is -- it's unreal. It is unbelievable that 48 years after the march that we're going to dedicate, that we're going to unveil this unbelievable monument to a man who was never elected to public office, a man of peace, a man of love, a man of non-violence.
And to see the likeness of Dr. King standing between Jefferson and Lincoln, it's almost too much. It's almost too much. It says something about the distance we've come, the progress we've made, and there are so many people that started with Dr. King, that started with us, and just wish they could be here to bear witness to what is about to happen.
CROWLEY: It has to be some sadness for you as the last surviving speaker from that day. And having seen from that day on, it was rugged, deadly going at so many points.
LEWIS: Yes. From time to time, I look at old photographs, I look at news reels of what happened. And I get a little sad to see people that I knew, people that I worked with, struggled with, people that I was beaten with, went to jail with, they're gone.
And they're not here. And sometimes you just feel like, I wish I can call them up and say, you know, it's going OK, we're still struggling, we're still making it. And I think about President Kennedy. I think about Robert Kennedy and Dr. King and so many others really.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you about "we're OK, we still have struggles." We had a USA Today/Gallup poll. And the question was, do you think that relations between blacks and whites will always be a problem for the U.S. or that a solution will eventually be worked out? Forty-eight -- 46 percent, sorry, said race relations will always be a problem. How would you have answered that question?
LEWIS: I don't share that. I believe that the day will come in America, I truly believe down in my soul, that the day will come where we will lay down the burden of race. And we will move toward the creation of a truly multi-racial, democratic society. That day will come in America.
It's in keeping with the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence to be hopeful, to be optimistic about the future.
CROWLEY: I want to play you something that the president said that I think you probably heard. He was at the Congressional Black Caucus in September. And this is what he had to say to you all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining. Stop grumbling. Stop crying. We are going to press on. We've got work to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: A lot of people took offense at that. We heard complaints from those who were at this meeting and from the -- some of the Congressional Black Caucus who said what's he lecturing us for? You know, I mean, we're trying to push him. Did you take offense at that?
LEWIS: I was not offended by that. We said things like that in the movement during the '60s. And we were not necessarily elected officials then. We said get up, be prepared to march.
When I was beaten on that bridge, and I think President Obama sort of said something about that, I was beaten on a Sunday, left bloody, unconscious. But the next day or so, I got up and was prepared to march on. And that's what we all must do, continue to press on and go on and see what the end is going to be.
CROWLEY: And I wanted to also ask you about Herman Cain on the Republican side now, African-American. I had him on last week in the show, and I asked him whether he thought racism still existed to the extent that it stood in the way of blacks advancing. And this was part of what he had to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAIN: I have seen blacks in middle management move up to top management in some of the biggest corporations in America. They weren't held back because of racism. No. People sometimes hold themselves back, because they want to use racism as an excuse for them not being able to achieve what they want to achieve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Do you think some African-Americans use racism as an excuse to get ahead?
LEWIS: It is my hope -- no. I think that it is my hope that the great majority of African-Americans never, ever use racism as the reason in this day and age for not moving forward or getting ahead. We cannot deny the fight, that the scars and stains of racism are still deeply embedded in American society. We're not there yet. We're on our way, but we still have miles to travel as a society and as a people.
CROWLEY: Finally on the -- on politics in general, what do you make of the Tea Party?
LEWIS: Well, the Tea Party is a very interesting development in American politics. I think it will be around for a while. But tomorrow, next year, two years, five, ten years from now...
CROWLEY: Do you find it racist?
LEWIS: There may be something else.
Every so often I see a few people of color being associated with the Tea Party. It is my hope that we don't have any single racism in any of our parties -- any sting of racism in any of our parties whether it is the Democratic Party or The Republican Party or the Tea Party, we need to free ourselves of racism.
CROWLEY: And do you ever ponder what life, what your life would have been like without Martin Luther King and what American life would be like without Martin Luther King?
LEWIS: If it hadn't been for Martin Luther King Jr., we'd be a divided nation, we'd be both black and white. If it hadn't been for Dr. King, we would have probably had something akin to another civil war. Dr. King freed and liberated not just the people, but a nation.
CROWLEY: And what did he mean to John Lewis? LEWIS: Dr. King freed me. He made me a stronger, better human being. If hadn't been for him, I don't know what would have happened to me. I saw segregation. I saw racial discrimination. I tasted the bitter fruits of racism. And he made me a different person. And today I can say I don't have any bitter feelings. I don't have any anger or hatred toward a single human being. He made me a -- a person that is at peace with myself. I could still be down in rural Alabama doing something, I'm not so sure what. But I know thing, if it hadn't been for Martin Luther King Jr., I wouldn't be in the congress.
CROWLEY: Congressman John Lewis, thank you so much for coming here and joining us, we appreciate it.
LEWIS: Thank you very much.
CROWLEY: Up next, Top stories and then on Fareed Zakaria GPS, making sense of the Occupy Wall Street movement with Forbes' editor- in-chief Steve Forbes. That's at the top of the hour.
CROWLEY: Now a check of today's top stories. At least 14 protesters at New York's Occupy Wall Street were arrested overnight for breaking curfew. The movement has gone global over the weekend as demonstrators gathered in cities across Europe, Asia, and Australia.
Security forces in Yemen opened fire on government demonstrators today killing four, injuring 54. A spokesman for the U.S. State Department condemned the violence and urged President Saleh to resign. There have been mass protest against Yemen's government since January.
This morning, Israel released the names of the first group of Palestinian prisoners to be freed in exchange for a captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Among the over 400 names are men serving life sentences for plotting deadly attacks on Israelis. The first swap is expected to take place early this week.
And those are today's top stories. Thank you so much for watching State of the Union. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. For viewers in the U.S., join us at 11:00 am eastern for our special coverage of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Dedication. President Obama will be delivering live remarks. And we will bring you a rarely seen piece of history, Martin Luther King's entire I Have a Dream speech. So get your kids and come join us at 11:00.
But up next Fareed Zakaria GPS.