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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY

Interview with Congressmen Rogers and Ruppersberger; Interview with Tulsi Gabbard and Tom Cotton

Aired March 17, 2013 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: One if by land, two if by sea drive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY (voice-over): Today, the administration sounds the alarm on the next battlefield, cyberspace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The threat this country faces in the cyber domain are increasing on a daily basis, and the threat is going to continue and it's going to grow.

CROWLEY: Chinese cyberattacks and the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran, the chairman and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee weigh in.

Then -- ten years after shock and awe, we look at the war in Iraq through the prism of two veterans who went from the battlefields of Iraq to the halls of Congress.

Plus --

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R) FLORIDA: We don't need a new idea. There is an idea. The idea is called America, and it still works.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY: The GOP of old has grown stale and moss covered.

CROWLEY: Rand Paul wins a conservative straw poll. Can he help resuscitate the grand old party?

And, does President Obama need to use his charm offensive on Democrats? Our political panel chimes in, including a face that's new to politics. I'm Candy Crowley. And this is STATE OF THE UNION.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY (on-camera): With me now, the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee, ranking member, Dutch Ruppersberger and chairman, Mike Rogers. Gentlemen, thank you. That's always nice to have both of you.

I want to start out with Israel because the president is making his first trip there as the president. One of his goals is to try to, again, convince the prime minister that the U.S. really will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. He said in an interview recently that the U.S. believes Iran is at least a year away from developing nuclear weapon capability. Prime Minister Netanyahu has always had a shorter timetable for that. What accounts for that difference?

ROGERS: Well, first of all, think about where Israel is in the world. So, there's southern partner for peace Egypt is no longer a reliable partner for peace. Syria is a mess and getting worse by the day, and the number of weapons systems and jihadists that are flooding Syria and have the potential to have those weapons systems throughout the Levant is really concerning, and oh by the way, have Iran threatening to annihilate Israel and clearly pursuing a nuclear weapon.

So, the analysts are close. There are some differences, and mainly, it's this thing called the dash. So, everybody agrees that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon program and the last part of it is, can they take the highly enriched uranium, weaponize it, and put it on a missile for use. And there is the debate, how long would it take to accomplish the last piece of that.

That's where the United States analysts are saying could be a year. I wouldn't be as certain where the president is, and the Israelis believe it's going to be sooner than that, and that's why the pressure is mounting for some action, maybe other than sanctions for Iran so they get the signal that we really won't tolerate them getting a nuclear weapon and then proliferating nuclear weapons across the Middle East.

CROWLEY: Would you agree, congressman that --

RUPPERSBERGER: I agree with what the chairman said, but --

CROWLEY: And let me just -- when you agree with him, do you mean that you also think it's the timetable is shorter than the year the president laid out?

RUPPERSBERGER: Well, some of this is classified, but let's just say this, whether it's short or long, I think it's important to know and especially for Israel to know that President Obama has clearly said that we will not tolerate them having a nuclear weapon. And you know the president and Netanyahu are going to be meeting in Israel which is good.

I know that relationship has not been what it should be, but I think the fact that the president is going there and I think he'll reaffirm that we will not tolerate the Iran to have a nuclear weapons. Not only for Israel but for the whole region, because --

CROWLEY: We can't afford to be wrong about where the line is. We can't afford to miscalculate when they have it.

RUPPERSBERGER: You can't trust Iran. They're a rogue nation. They're exporting terrorism. They're cyberattack is out there. So, we have to deal with that issue, and I think, right now, with the president going to Israel that there, hopefully, will be some agreement between Netanyahu and the president.

CROWLEY: OK. Let me move you on to something that James Clapper, who is the director of the National Intelligence Agency, said Tuesday at the Senate Select Committee about a cyberattacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: When it comes to succinct (ph) threat areas, our statement this year leads with cyber, and it's hard to overemphasize its significance. We see indications that some terrorist organizations are interested in developing offensive cyber capabilities and as cyber criminals are using a growing black market to sell cyber tools that fall into the hands of both state and non- state actors.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: As clearly as you can, tell me what the threat is that he's talking about.

ROGERS: Well, there are different levels of the threat. There's the criminal threat and the organized criminal threat. As a matter of fact, the credit card in your viewer's wallet today will get hit about 300,000 times. People trying to get the information through the credit card company to steal money for them.

The next level up is cyber espionage, mainly by the nation state of China stealing intellectual property. In other words, the blueprints that allow to you build your product and have a job, they go in, steal it, repurpose it, and use it to artificially compete in the world market. That costs us real jobs.

And then, lastly, in the highest level is the military or cyberattack, meaning, they could shut down the financial institutions, our electric grid, and cause significant damage and harm to our economy.

CROWLEY: And this was the head of, you know, sort of our top spy guy saying that this is the number one threat. So, my guess is he's not talking about criminal activity getting your credit card. He's talking about terrorists, and yet, we hear we're maybe two years away from the capability and that's what we were told.

RUPPERSBERGER: We're not two years away at all. We're having attacks as we speak right now.

CROWLEY: By terrorists?

ROGERS: By nation states.

RUPPERSBERGER: Nation states.

CROWLEY: We certainly know that China is, or we believe China to be behind some of this industrial spying, but I'm talking about the last thing that he said about, and we know that terrorists are looking to do the kinds of things you talked about, shutting down --

ROGERS: Different issues here. We know that terrorists, non- nation states are seeking the capability to do cyberattacks.

CROWLEY: Right.

ROGERS: They're probably not there yet. Here's the other problem, a non-rational actor, Iran, is already at the shores of the United States with cyberattacks, and that's what's so concerning. I think that's why all of us, Dutch and I have been working so hard on that.

RUPPERSBERGER: Let's talk about that. We have attacks right now. We know our Wall Street has been attacked. We have -- we have the capability other countries including Iran for destructive attacks to knock out our grid system, to attack some of our banks. We know that China, especially, has probably stolen more trade secrets, which relates to jobs and money.

The largest amount of theft in the history of the world, and we have got to stop this. Now, One of the issues out there, Mike and I have been working on this now for two years, and we put together a bill that would pass in a bipartisan manner that was last year. It went to the Senate and failed. And, you know, we have to move forward. And people are saying, why do we have to continue?

And that one year, we've had more attacks. We know "Washington Post," "New York Times" has been attacked. These attacks are getting a lot stronger. And people say to me, what keeps you up at night, because Mike and I are the Gang of Eight, and I'll say spicy food, weapons of mass destruction, and destructive cyberattacks.

And we have the capability to stop this, but we have to pass our bill, and our bill is only 37 pages. Our bill deals with privacy issues, and yet, we're still working with the White House and we're working with the Senate and working with the privacy groups to try to get a bill that will protect our privacy but protect us from these cyberattacks.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about a more traditional threat, and that is North Korea. It seems to me that the worry level of the United States has gone up since we got Kim Jong-Un. Why is that? Because we have sort of always thought that, yes, North Korea, it's a rogue state and it's private and we don't know what they're doing, but now, there seems to be some sort of urgency about their nuclear capabilities. Can they reach U.S. shores?

ROGERS: Well, they certainly have a ballistic missile that can reach U.S. shores. They just recently had their third nuclear test. And you know, there was lots of speculation about the tests, a lots of warning to the North Koreans not to do it. They pressed the head. So, you have a 28-year-old leader who is trying to prove himself to the military, and the military eager to have a saber rattling for their own self-interest, and the combination of that is proving to be very,very deadly.

So, the sheer threat that they would openly threaten a nuclear attack against the United States is problem enough, but their military movements along the DMZ, the demilitarized zone in North Korea, a whole new set of problems for us. It's the largest military in the world still in uniform.

This is something that we have to take seriously, and you can see that they're looking for some provocations, not just along the border, but there's some islands that they're interested in. A few years ago, they fired artillery on the island. This is very, very concerning as we just don't know the stability of their leader, again, 28 years old. We're just not confident that we know he wouldn't take those steps.

CROWLEY: We knew his father better.

ROGERS: Yes, absolutely.

CROWLEY: I have to move you on to a different subject simply because we were told that the FBI interviewed a man in connection with the 9/11 attack in Libya. Do you know if he was involved in the Benghazi attack? If he was, should he come here for trial?

RUPPERSBERGER: Well, look, first the issue of trial is whether you come to the United States for a trial, a civil trial, or whether, you know, you are a prisoner and you're in Gitmo. I think it depends on a case by case basis. When you do go into the process of the civil court and you're what they call lawyer up, you have a lawyer, a lot of times, that's when the information stops.

And yet, history shows that some of the people that we have taken to civil court even after a lawyer, we've gotten information from. So, I think you have to look at the issue case by case, what happens. And I can tell you this, we, as a nation, are the strongest country in the world. And we need to show that we can try people and convict people in our country and protect witnesses and everything else. So, there are a lot of issues here, but it's got to depend on a case by case basis.

CROWLEY: Congressman, was this man involved in the Benghazi attack?

ROGERS: Well, we're not sure yet. We have pretty good indications that he is, at least, a highly suspected of being involved. And again, the problem with criminalizing this is that it lengthens the process. It slows everything down, and the key to these things is getting information soon. So, you don't want to bring somebody, have them mirandized which tells them you don't have to talk to us, and by the way, we'll pay for a lawyer in an enemy combatant situation.

That is exactly the wrong thing to do. When you criminalize it, as I said, it slows things down, and more importantly, it doesn't allow you to get the information you need to protect the United States.

CROWLEY: Congressman Mike Rogers, Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, more trouble spots than time, but we really appreciate you this morning.

RUPPERSBERGER: Sure. Good to be here again.

CROWLEY: Next, two Iraq war veterans who also happen to be newly elected to the House of Representatives.

And later, President Obama deploys his charm offensive to woo Republicans, but has he forgotten the Democrats? Our political panel weighs in, Democratic congressman, Raul Grijalva of Arizona, Al Cardenas of the American Conservative Union, Democratic strategist, KiKi McLean, and a new voice from the Republican Party, Dr. Ben Carson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't have to be a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist to understand that if we continue to spend ourselves into oblivion, we are going to destroy our nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Ten years after the war in Iraq, is it being judged a success or a failure? I put that question recently to the men who directed the U.S. troop surge in Iraq, former defense secretary, Robert Gates.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERT GATES, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: It's too soon to tell whether it was a huge strategic miscalculation that destabilized the entire region in part by strengthening Iran or whether it was the first break in decades of authoritarianism in the Arab world and was the beginning of a change that altered the entire political landscape of the region, and the truth is, we may not know the answer to that question for another 10 or 20 years.

There are a number of things that could prove that it was a mistake, one is that if Iraq begins to fall apart because of continuing sectarian divisions, significant expansion, further expansion of Iranian influence in Iraq, and in the region, or further destabilization of the entire region. Iraq, Syria, Libya, all have in common that they are kind of artificial creations, that through together adversarial -- historically adversarial ethnic groups, tribes, and religions.

And the question in all three cases is, can those countries hold together absent repression? That's all that's held them together before. The question is, what will happen going forward? And as I say, I think it's too soon to make that call.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Two Iraq war veterans now serving in Congress, Tulsi Gabbard and Tom Cotton on how their experiences shaped their votes, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Welcome back, and let me introduce you to our next guests. She served in the Hawaii National Guard and deployed to Iraq with the medical unit handling logistics and operations for 3,000 troops. He was an infantry platoon leader with the 101st airborne and led daily patrols and combat operations through Iraq.

Both were elected to Congress this past November, and both are with me now, Democratic congresswoman, Tulsi Gabbard, of Hawaii and Republican congressman, Tom Cotton, of Arkansas.

Thank you both for coming here with your particular brand of expertise. And I want to ask you looking at the war now and how you felt about it when you first touched down in Iraq and how you feel about it now, is there a difference?

GABBARD: I'll start out here. When I was activated for duty, it was actually by 29th for the combat team in Hawaii that was activated. I was serving in the state legislature, and like many of the other soldiers, you know, this was not something being a National Guard soldier that was quite expected at that time.

You know, I was serving my constituents in Ewa Beach (ph) in Waipahu, going surfing on the weekend, and then, all of a sudden, found out that this deployment of close to 3,000 Hawaii troops was happening to Iraq. I was not on that first mandatory deployment roster but knew very quickly that there was no way that I could stay home in the comfort of my house and in Hawaii and watch my brothers and sisters deploy and recognizing the necessity to stand with them as they went off to combat.

The experience completely changed my life and was very big motivator in recognizing what are the true costs of war, seeing that on a daily basis and bringing that experience here to Congress, where we have a very real responsibility of making those decisions about when and where our troops go to combat, and I remember those names and my friends and people who were lost every single day.

CROWLEY: Do you find that you just look at war and the declaration of war, although, there wasn't really one in this case, but nonetheless, is different having served?

COTTON: The Iraq war wasn't just a noble war. I joined the army after 9/11, after the Iraq war was started. I joined in part because I wanted to go fight on the front lines. I served there in 2006. Before the surge started, frankly, after I left Iraq towards the end of 2006, I was worried that we were losing the war. But after the surge, I felt that we succeeded.

And we have a generation of veterans now who are going to be leaders all around the country, the same way the World War II generation was, the same way the Vietnam generation was. We have John McCain in the U.S. Senate, for example, or Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx, my father who's a leader in our small town.

And I think you'll see a generation of new leaders coming forward again across the country. I'm a veteran, Tulsi is a veteran. My chief of staff, Doug Kutz (ph) is a veteran, served with me at Arlington National Cemetery. I just met last week with a friend from Fort Benning, Jade Alkaby (ph), who's a successful entrepreneur now.

So, we have a generation of veterans whose accomplishments in Iraq we should celebrate but also these accomplishments going forward over the next several decades. We're going to make America a better place.

CROWLEY: Let me then bring you back to the question that everyone ask now ten years later. I put it actually to Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, but in this case, obviously, he's the brother of the president who went into Iraq and showed us the statistics of so many people saying it was just a bad idea. We shouldn't have done it. It wasn't worth it, and here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEB BUSH, (R) FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: A lot of things in history change over time. I think people will respect the resolve that my brother showed both in defending the country and the war in Iraq, but history will judge that in a more objective way than today, the war has wound down now, and it's still way too early to judge what success it had in providing some degree of stability in the region.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Congresswoman, do you think it's too early to judge the success or lack thereof in the war in Iraq?

GABBARD: I think one of the problems that we've seen today as well as we saw throughout the time that we spent there is victory was not clearly defined. We had many different things. We had taking out Saddam Hussein. We had a civil war that really between the Shia and the Sunni, and then, we also had the threat of al Qaeda and terrorists.

And our, I think, miscalculation there of fighting this unconventional threat, these unconventional terrorists who know no allegiance to a specific flag or country with very conventional tactics. So, I think that as we look through the past and we look forward to the future, we look to the threats we're facing today, for example, North Korea. You know, you talked about this a little bit earl earlier, countries that have very specific capabilities that have nuclear weapons that have missiles that are within range of places like Hawaii and Alaska where the people in my community are very concerned about what kinds of actions we'll take.

CROWLEY: I guess the question is, though, do you think ten years out it was worth it or do you think it's too soon to tell?

GABBARD: Again, it's a question of what does worth it mean? Was it worth it to the lives that were lost there? Was it worth it with the trillions of dollars that we've spent there?

CROWLEY: Go ahead.

COTTON: I would say it was worth it, but it was also a little bit too soon to tell because there's nothing ever certain in human affairs. But if you look at the accomplishment of our troops in Iraq, they deposed an evil tyrant who was an aggressive international dictator. He'd invaded across two boundaries.

He had demonstrated the ability and the will to use weapons of mass destruction. He was believed by every western government, including senior high-ranking officials in President Obama's cabinet right now to be developing new weapons, who's (ph) in violation of numerous United Nations resolutions.

Under those conditions, I think, as I said, it was a just and noble war. There are certainly missteps in the early days of the war, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 just like FDR had missteps in World War II or Abraham Lincoln in the civil war, but we did turn it around after the surge. But still, there's no certainty in human affairs.

We have to continue to be a leader and to try to foil the Iranian regime or Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria to ensure that the gains that we're seeing in Iraq over the last ten years remain over the next ten years.

CROWLEY: Let me turn to you to something, actually, congresswoman, that you alluded to and that is veterans, so many of them now, and a lot of the figures that are coming out of the VA right now don't speak to a country that really is committed to helping these veterans when they come back. I think we're going to pay out like $59 billion, almost $60 billion.

It's almost four (ph) millions vets and their families in this fiscal year. The average time to complete a claim, 261 days, the backlog is more than half a million claims. Do you think that the VA is doing its job?

GABBARD: No, not to serve every single veteran that's coming in, both the new generation of veterans from those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as those who served in Vietnam, who served in Korea and other conflicts in our past. Without a doubt, we need to do better. We need to do better in Congress to make sure that we, as a country, are fulfilling our responsibility to these veterans who've sacrificed so much, to their families, and get the respect in services that they have earned.

CROWLEY: And what is that going to take? Do you think that General Shinseki has done a good job as head of the VA? Because honestly, people talk about this all the time and say we have to do better job at the VA. We're not -- you know, we need the Pentagon and the VA to make a seamless transfer from out of the services to the Va.

It doesn't happen. It's been ten years since the war started and it's been five years, four and a half, since the Obama administration took over. What's it going to take?

COTTON: I think General Shinseki is a good example of the many selfless public servants at the VA in the sense that he is a decorated veteran himself. And I've dealt with VA officials in Arkansas and here in Washington, so many more veterans, and they want to do the right thing. Oftentimes, they may lack the resources. They may lack the best practices. I mean, in some ways, the Department of Veteran Affairs is like, you know, an insurance company or claims processing company. They don't always have the best and most modern practices. I think one thing we could do in Congress to oversight is help to ensure that they're getting the kind of training and resources they need.

I think the will and the desire are certainly there to serve veterans if you look at an organization like Wal-Mart, my home state has just announced a new initiative where they're going to hire every veteran who applies for a job as long as they have a clean background check. It doesn't matter of their skill set or their training, that they want that kind of experience there. So, I think the country certainly appreciates veterans and wants to serve them.

CROWLEY: Sure.

COTTON: Sometimes --

CROWLEY: Good intentions just don't get them those benefits soon enough.

GABBARD: Right, which is why I think it's important and I appreciate Tom's service and being able to work with him as well as other veterans who are serving in Congress and the U.S. senate because it really is going to take all of us having a concerted focus, commitment, and effort to make sure that the resources are there, that the focus and attention doesn't wane if it's not at the top of the headlines.

CROWLEY: I want to thank both of you, first of all, for being here today, most of all for your service both on the battlefield and now in Congress. I hope you'll come back and talk to us.

GABBARD: Thank you.

COTTON: Thank you, Candy. Great to be here.

CROWLEY: When we return, he placed seventh in this weekend's conservative straw poll, but for a man who's never spent a day in politics, he beat out some pretty big names and faces. What can he bring to the Republican Party? Dr. Ben Carson is my guest, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN CARSON, JOHN HOPKINS UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL PEDIATRIC NEUROSURGERY DIRECTOR: Let's say you magically put me, you know, into the White House, and -

AUDIENCE: (Applause)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: A very enthusiastic reception for Dr. Ben Carson yesterday at the CPAC conference just outside Washington, D.C. Conference participants cast their vote for president in a straw poll. Rand Paul won that poll, but newcomer Dr. Carson finished in seventh place and beat out many well-known Republican politicians. Joining me now, Dr. Ben Carson, including I should say Sarah Palin.

CARSON: I wasn't even on the ballot so I don't know how I got any votes.

CROWLEY: I think actually you were on the ballot, but nonetheless, it is surprising, you are well-known in the world of neurosurgery and medicine. It became an internet sensation at the very least after a prayer breakfast in which you openly challenged some of the president's principles as it applies to the economy. So when you look at what's happened to you over the past five weeks, how do you explain it?

CARSON: Well, I can easily explain it by all the correspondence I've gotten from across the country, particularly from a lot of people who said they had given up and they didn't feel that there was anybody who represented their views in Washington, D.C., and now they felt energized again, and I think basically what I've been talking about, if you distill it, it's not really right stuff or left stuff. It's logical stuff. You know, it's talking about what has happened historically to people who don't control their budgets, and a whole host of other things, in terms of destroying the harmony in the nation and pitting people against each other, how those things are not useful. I think a lot of people resonate with that. They don't have to be Democrats or Republicans. They just have to be logical people who want America to succeed.

CROWLEY: And yet I imagine a lot of folks who contacted you were Republican inclined since it was seen as a direct critique of Obama administration policy.

CARSON: I'd say I got a lot of mail from people who said I am a Democrat but I resonate with what you're talking about. I think a lot of Democrats are just as interested in harmony and progress as Republicans are.

CROWLEY: When you look at -- well first let me ask then, do you consider yourself a Republican?

CARSON: I'm a registered independent.

CROWLEY: But you lean more -- you were at the conservative Republican, I know they asked you to come, but would you say in general that you lean Republican? CARSON: If I were asked to come to a Democratic convention and to give my views, I would be happy to do so.

CROWLEY: Be careful what you say, Dr. Carson, you may show up there. Tell me, one of the things that we're awaiting is a Republican look at what went wrong in 2012. As a voter, as someone more than interested in politics as an observer right now, what would you say the Republican party did wrong?

CARSON: Well, I don't think that they were able to connect with the people to create the level of enthusiasm that was necessary, you know, and I think a lot of the problem is a systemic problem, because I think the way that we elect presidents is not good and a lot of people who live in blue states say, what's the point of me voting? A lot of people who live in red states say, what's the point in me meeting? My vote really doesn't count so they don't vote so we need to reexamine this situation.

CROWLEY: Dr. Carson you are going to stick with us and join our panel which is coming up so stay right there. When we return, conservatives did cast their first votes for 2016 and a son inherits his father's place at the top of that straw poll, our political panel is up next.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was told I got ten measly minutes, but just in case, I brought 13 hours' worth of information.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Joining around the table Democratic congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona, Democratic strategist, Kiki McLean, Al Cardenas, President of the American Conservative Union and returning Dr. Ben Carson, thanks all for being here.

I have to start out with CPAC and we discussed that senator Rand Paul won. What does this tell us about the Republican Party if anything, that Rand Paul came out on top?

AL CARDENAS, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: Well the theme of CPAC this year precisely was, you know, new challenges, new generation of conservative leaders, and the two who came out on top were young leads, Rand Paul got 25 percent, Marco Rubio got 23 percent. You look down the list there was Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, in other words the top recognized, Dr. Carson got a good chunk of change there, so we showed that indeed the party is revolving around these new leaders in the conservative movement. We also have a couple of different tents. We've got libertarians, tea party activist, establishment conservatives and so the whole idea of the CPAC is to bring the whole tent together. CROWLEY: Although, senator Paul might object to the - he's close to an isolationist which has never been among the three things that Reagan conservatives have stood for, what do you think it says, if anything? Is this just a party in search of itself?

KIKI MCLEAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, as someone who was part of the Democratic leadership council in the early '90s on staff.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Moderate, trying to moderate the Democratic Party?

MCLEAN: A group of Democrats who were trying to lead the party out of the wilderness at the time and successfully did so, what you see out of CPAC as an outside observer is it's a chance for people to introduce themselves. I'm not sure that anybody, any American walked away with an understanding this weekend that the Republican party has made a decision about where it's going to go. I think that's still a really big question.

I think what you saw were as Al said some leaders come in and introduce themselves. It's a little bit of the state pageant before you get into the Miss America show, and I think what you saw were some early introductions. I think it's kind of a no hits, no runs, no errors for the Republican party. There were moments of disappointment. I think when you saw what Ann Coulter had to say about immigration that was disappointing because I think both sides think that there's somewhere to move forward but mostly it was a moment for everybody to say we have a lot of work to do in this party.

GRIJALVA: I thought you saw the fusion that the Republican party is going through politically, when you have this whole retribution threat in terms of bipartisanship, that if you work on consensus, we're going to primary you from the Club for Growth, and I think that with the Ryan II budget that came out, same as the first one, I think you see a party trying to define itself and I think the CPAC was one part of their definition and right now, the definition that has the upper hand and I think it doesn't speak well for electoral politics down the road for Republicans as a whole.

CROWLEY: Since you brought up Ann Coulter I want to play just a quick bite from her, Ann Coulter a conservative columnist and commentator and this was part what she had to say talking about undocumented workers and the pathway to citizenship or to legal documentation. Here's what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: If amnesty goes through, America becomes California and no Republican will ever win another national election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Is that a good message for Republicans to have out there at this point? CARSON: Well, I don't know that it's a good message for anybody, because you know, we have people here. They're an important part of our economy, and all we have to do is look to our north, Canada, where they have a very functional guest worker program, and if we initiated that, allowed people to be here legally, work, be registered, pay taxes, go back home, and to continue along the pathway of citizenship, if that's what they wanted to do, just like anybody else, why do we have to make it into a big political issue.

CROWLEY: And yet it is.

CARDENAS: We had the panel immigration, the evolution of the conservative movement on the issue of immigration is nothing less than astonishing. Congressman Labrador headed that panel. The panel talked about moving forward and agreeing on an immigration reform package that covered all of the concerns of the conservative movement and frankly if there was not unanimity a wide consensus that's the way we're going.

CROWLEY: Yet she represents a part of the party.

CARDENAS: She has an audience but I think if you would have looked at this thing last year you would have never had a panel like this or reaction from the audience like we had. There's been tremendous progress towards a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform package and one that includes the concerns of most conservatives, concerns that have lasted for 20 years or more since the Reagan 1986 situation, we thought we needed more in the enforcement side. I think Raul and the other members of Congress are working on that. So by the time this thing is over, I think most of the wants and needs of all sides of the aisles are going to be met.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go ahead.

GRIJALVA: Coulter's comments do nothing but try to stir up state divisions that we saw for the last three, four, five, six years, us versus them. They're not part of us. Those kinds of, you know, barely muted commentaries I think we've gone way beyond the Coulter sense of what immigration should be. It's a broken system, most Americans agree to that and there is an opportunity here for some bipartisanship and to coming up with a solution to this broken system.

CROWLEY: It would certainly take it off the -- it would take it off the plate for 2016 which I think you all would probably be happy about, Republicans.

CARDENAS: Well it needs to get done and frankly the window is very narrow. Forget '14 or '16. If it doesn't get done it may get put on the shelf for a long time.

MCLEAN: This raises a point and a challenge that (ph) the Republican party have and that is if they have some big entertainment celebrities, political entertainers on their side of the aisle that I think could prove to be really challenging for the Republican party.

CROWLEY: Donald trump. MCLEAN: Donald Trump. You think about radio talk show hosts that we could name a few who have the potential to derail those Republicans who want to work. They are the first to lay down threats about who those support and won't support. And the first to serve willed that bat of anti-cooperation or the bat obstructionism.

(CROSSTALK)

CARSON: It's going to be a bigger problem if people are willing to sit down at the table and discuss things without having hardened positions. That always seems to be the case we just need to soften those positions and let everybody explain the reason that they have their positions and what the rational conclusion is to that position and let's talk about it. In the multitude of counselors is safety as it says in Proverbs, and we need to begin to live by it.

CARDENAS: I think Kiki, and I think that both sides (inaudible) frankly have folks who cater to activists. That's not unhealthy, it's a point of view, but you know, we're living now in an era of new media and media celebrities that take a very strong position. And I think the downside of (INAUDIBLE) participants as ours. At the end of the day, it's a - both sides (INAUDIBLE) are coming up with some pretty committed activists.

CROWLEY: I want to move you to a problem sort of inside the Democratic party and it also brings the other story of the week which is the president's charm offensive. And I want to play for you real quickly something that House democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, had said to me last week.

CROWLEY: We were talking about changes in entitlement in order to kind of bring the budget under control and here's what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: If the point of it is to take trophies, let's raise the age. That doesn't save money. It's a trophy. It's a scalp.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: So, along with this, we seem to have the former speaker of the house, a current minority leader saying, you may not touch entitlements. We have the progressive wing of the Democratic party saying to the president, no, you may not touch entitlements and, yet, everyone says you cannot bring down spending without touching entitlements. Do you trust the president to protect Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid?

GRIJALVA: I'm holding the president to his word to do the campaign that those were important programs that other things can be done to create savings and generate revenue. You know, the progressive caucus budget reflect that and but I think also we have to understand that this is also philosophical fight, as much as it is a fiscal fight. There is the idea of shrinking government and Medicare and Social Security have always been seen as the political targets of some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle.

So, obviously, this is not just about fiscal policy, it's about political philosophy. And you know, when you're at the perch of success, you can talk about reducing spending. But when you're working families or young people trying to get that dream in this country of ours, it doesn't look the same from the perch.

CROWLEY: Well, what about though the idea that there is a division within the Democratic Party about how to change it. Some people say, well, we can take more out of providers and I want to get your take on that with Medicare but what about raising the age of Social Security. What about saying, if you make this much money as a person over 65, you ought not get as much Social Security as everybody else. Is that something that the president would look at? You get that vibe?

MCLEAN: I think to be a good leader on this you have to recognize that everything is on the table and handled responsibility. And I have great faith in President Obama's willingness and commitment to do that. But here is what we do know. We know that the congressman pointed out a political philosophy and there are people on both ends of the argument who will create the boundaries, if you will, for the debate to bring that in the middle. That's what the two different budgets that get presented are about. Now, where do we start the conversation? The reality is resolution to the crisis that we're in right now won't feel good for everybody at the end of the day, but what it does mean is that everybody has to be willing to be at the table so we can move forward because the worst thing that can happen is nothing.

CARDENAS: Well I wish Kiki said (ph) the White House, because I don't share her confidence. Look, many have asked me what happened at the 2012 election. You asked Dr. Carson earlier. Look, we were selling broccoli to 70 percent of the American electorate and they were giving away cheesecake to 100 percent of the electorate. These entitlement programs require serious thought and require some sacrifice and require providing a safety net, but on affordable basis. Not affordable and we're not going to deal with serious problems with America unless we deal with it more seriously. I think their sight and I think as congressman said, dealing with their promises during the campaign and the mathematical realities of the day.

CROWLEY: Let me give you the last word here with 30 seconds and that is, entitlements. Do you think that benefits and entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security need to be cut for some recipients?

CARSON: Well, I think we have to realize we don't live in isolation, this is history. When these things were started, what was the average age at which somebody collected Social Security? What was the average age of death? We have to move with the demographics of the society. And if we just live in isolation and don't adjust as things happen, of course, we're going to be in trouble.

CROWLEY: To say that people are getting older and we ought to extend the age for some of those benefits.

I want to thank all of you so much for being here. I appreciate your time. Come back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, thanks.

CROWLEY: When we return, Pope Francis delivers his first sermon to the faithful. The headlines are next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Here's a look at today's headlines. Pope Francis delivered his first Sunday blessing as pontiff to a jam packed crowd of more than 200,000 at St. Peter's Square today.

Earlier he celebrated mass and greeted people outside a church in Vatican City. Francis inauguration as the bishop of Rome and leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics will take place Tuesday. Vice president Joe Biden is leading the U.S. delegation to the ceremony. President Obama is preparing to head to the Middle East. He'll make his first trip to Israel since taking office on Tuesday. The president will also visit the West Bank and Jordan. The White House says the purpose of the trip is to express U.S. support for Israel security and jump start Israeli/Palestinian peace talks.

You're looking now at live pictures of the courthouse in Ohio where two Steubenville, Ohio, high school players are on trial for rape and will soon learn their fate. A judge is expected to hand down his verdict in the next hour. Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond are accused of raping a 16-year-old West Virginia girl last summer. The girl acknowledges she had been drinking at the time and does not remember what happened to her. CNN will have coverage of the verdict.

Thank you so much for watching STATE OF THE UNION.

Head to CNN.com/sotu for web extras, including our very popular online segment called "Getting to know." This week you can get to know more about Dr. Ben Carson. If you missed any part of today's show, find us on iTunes. Just search STATE OF THE UNION.

I'm Candy Crowley in Washington.

Fareed Zakaria GPS is next for our viewers here in the United States.