Return to Transcripts main page
STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY
Rebuilding in Oklahoma; Interview with Rep. Michael McCaul
Aired May 26, 2013 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CROWLEY: Rebuilding in Oklahoma as political storm chasers keep busy in Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY (voice-over): Today, 16 minutes of terror now turns into years of recovery. Oklahoma governor, Mary Fallin, on rebuilding the town of Moore in the wake of an F-5 tornado and protecting residents from the next storm.
Then, the forever war revisited.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must define our effort not as a boundless global war on terror, but rather as a series of persistent targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.
CROWLEY: The Republican pushback on terrorism, drones, and Gitmo detainees in the post-Afghan war era. House Homeland Security chairman, Michael McCaul, joins us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you solemnly --
CROWLEY: -- keeping her job and taking the fifth.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will not answer any questions or testify about the subject matter of this committee's meeting.
CROWLEY: Is the director of the IRS tax exempt division exempt from talking to Congress and entitled to keep her job? Our political panel, Ron Brownstein of the "National Journal," Clarence Page of the "Chicago Tribune," and former House speaker, Newt Gingrich, weighs in.
Plus, honoring the troops with a co-host of a National Memorial Day concert, actor, Joe Mantegna.
I'm Candy Crowley, and this is STATE OF THE UNION.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY (on-camera): You're looking right now at a live picture out of Moore, Oklahoma. The devastation even on a single home just really unbearable to look at. President Obama is headed to Oklahoma today. It's nearly been a week after the deadly tornado claimed 24 lives and left the city of Moore in ruins. The president is expected to meet with victims and first responders and then take a tour of damaged areas.
Joining me from Moore is Oklahoma governor, Mary Fallin. Thank you so much, governor. Let me ask you first, what do you need of the president? What do you need to ask him for?
FALLIN: Well, we have, first of all, appreciate the president coming to Oklahoma to see the devastation. It is huge here and a lot of need here. But, basically, what i need is the ability to get through red tape, the ability to get the FEMA funds in here quickly, and to get the services that our citizens need to help them recover through this terrible disaster.
CROWLEY: And what do you think the biggest hurdle you face is? Is it -- you know, you look at all of that that residents are going to have to sift through that's so evident behind you, and yet, the first thing you mention is red tape. So, I'm warning if bureaucracy is your biggest fear at this point.
FALLIN: Well, I've had some people ask me what are you going to do if the response isn't quick enough? And so, I'm hoping the response from the federal government will be quick enough. So far, we have had great response. FEMA administrator Fugate was here immediately after the storm. Secretary Napolitano came here immediately. And so, we appreciate that.
This is a massive debris field. It's not just a couple blocks. It's miles. It's 17 miles long, almost a mile and a half wide. So, it's not just a little area. There's a lot to be done here. A lot of businesses are closed. A lot of people without jobs just because their businesses are closed. And, of course, you have the neighborhoods. We had five schools that were hit.
So, a lot of areas that have been destroyed and a lot of people need to get back on their feet. And, of course, the debris as you can see behind me is huge. It's not just a couple houses with roofs off.
FALLIN: There are miles of debris fields.
CROWLEY: Governor Fallin, I want you to stick with me, because I want to bring two other people into the conversation. They have been where you are, some rough weather of their own. Joplin, Missouri mayor, Melodie Colbert-Kean, whose city was devastated by a tornado two years ago this week, and Congressman Michael Grimm who represents Staten Island, New York. That was heavily damaged by superstorm Sandy last October.
Congressman, let me start with you. We are seven months since superstorm Sandy hit Staten Island, which was pretty devastated. On a scale of one to ten, where are you in the recovery process?
GRIMM: On a scale from one to ten, I'd say we are probably at about a six. A lot of work has been done, but you have to recognize there are still families that are displaced, not back in their homes yet. And there are still small businesses that have not reopened. So, have we made progress? Of course, we have. But for those that still are not in their home or their business still isn't open, we certainly haven't done enough and it certainly is taking too long.
And, that's why I would say it's going to be very difficult for the governor to manage expectations because you think the Calvary's coming. And it's going to take a long time just because there is a bureaucracy that even during extreme times is very difficult to cut through.
CROWLEY: Sure. It's easy to see progress in the big picture, but when you get to specifics if you've been out of business for seven months, that is way too long. Stick with me, congressman. Let me bring in Mayor Colbert-King. Tell me about Joplin. We're two years now, and you had almost an identical storm to what they suffered in Moore. It was an F-5. It just didn't total Joplin, but it certainly laid her low. Where are you now on a scale of one to ten?
COLBERT-KEAN: Right, Candy. It's an eerie deja vu, if you will, when we look at Moore, Oklahoma, because you wake up and you say what in the world this happened again? And two years later, we are progressing. However, we do still have a long way to go also.
And I agree with the statement just made. You cannot -- your expectations are always greater than what is delivered immediately. Your first thought is to get your city, make sure your citizens are OK and get your city back on track. However, you do have to go through the proper procedures that the government has outlaid for FEMA. You do have to follow those guidelines.
And, sometimes, it can be frustrating, but the key thing is to communicate with your citizens. Communicate every day what's going on, where you are with the process, and that will help relieve some of their fears.
CROWLEY: Governor Fallin, bringing you back in, what do you think will be your biggest long-term problem? When you look down the road, we all know you have to get that debris out of there, we all know you have to put telephone poles back up and phone wires buried or otherwise have to be put back into place. Long-term, though, what worries you the most?
FALLIN: Well, I think long-term what worries me the most is people being patient. As both congressman and the mayor said, it is hard to manage those expectations. And once the media's gone, once the focus is taken off community on a daily basis, then we have to get back to the rebuilding stage, get back to the nitty-gritty of what do you do with all this debris, how do you get people into the communities, get the amount of construction people that you need in.
I'm certain there will be some delays just because there's so much to do even finding the personnel, the people to do this stuff, will take a while. And how do you help people in the very long run is a question that I have for the other people that have been through this.
CROWLEY: Go ahead, Congressman Grimm. You are looking at people who are not going to have their homes back in the very long run. What did you find to be so surprising? And if you could answer the governor's question, how do you deal with the long run with people without homes or places to sleep?
GRIMM: Well, it's without a doubt going to probably be the governor's most difficult challenge. And I would say to the governor, be yourself. Be the person that you are. It's a time like this that people really don't need politicians. They need leaders and they need compassion and empathy. And I would say, you know, there are times where the truth is you're not going to be able to make their day any better.
So, you put your arm around them and you give them a hug and you tell them I know I can't work fast enough and I know I'm not going to relieve your immediate pain right now, but I'm here. I'm with you. And I'm going to continue to work until we finally get it done. So, I think that just the real honesty and being just the person that you are, that's why they elected you, they know you.
And I'll tell you, now, all these months later, I walk down the street and I'll hear Michael and I'll turn around and it will be a person that I barely remember because I met so many people at once, but they said you were there that day and put your arm around me and they call me by my first name because they're comfortable and they know that just like them, this is my community, too, and we're neighbors.
So, I would say that's the best way to manage the expectations with just true honesty and be yourself and know that they'll know you're a person going through it with them and they'll respect that.
CROWLEY: Mayor Colbert-Kean, do you still have people two years later that come up and say, this hasn't been done and that hasn't been done. How do you deal with those expectations? What's your advice to the governor?
COLBERT-KEAN: Of course, yes. We're going to -- you're going to always have that because, like you said, there is no quick remedy for a disaster of these proportions. It does take time. And we started out with almost 600 FEMA housing units we had to have to house people who were displaced with their homes flattened. However, at this stage two years later, we're down to about seven or eight of those units left.
So, if you can encourage them -- and just like he said, be real, let them know that it will take time, but I feel your pain. There's nothing that you can do or say that's going to alleviate them 100 percent. But if you just communicate that to them, I keep stressing that communication is the key, disasters are going to occur. They're going to occur. We've all seen that.
But you have to take -- each city has to take ownership of your disaster. FEMA is going to do so much, but they're looking to your guidance, your city guidance and what you already have in place. You give them direction.
CROWLEY: And, if you could, my final question of the two of you and we'll wind up with the governor is, what surprised you, madam mayor, most? What do you wish you knew then that you now know about this recovery process?
COLBERT-KEAN: And we're still learning things. It's really just to have a plan. You have to have a pre-plan that includes taking pictures of anything that you may have in your household that includes taking pictures and taking inventory of everything that you have in your city. Making sure your insurances are up to date, different things like that.
Having a plan, making sure you're going to communicate what would happen if this should occur, and then following that plan. No one has a handbook to say this is how we're going to do it and this is how we're going to follow it step-by-step. You create it for your own city, and you are going to make sure that your city gets to be exactly where it needs to be once you get through all this.
CROWLEY: And, congressman to the governor, what surprised you now seven months later that you say to yourself I wish I'd known that because I'd started this earlier?
GRIMM: Well, without a doubt relying on just your everyday average citizens. They're the true unsung heroes in this. They are going to step up in a way you'll never imagine, and they know their neighborhoods. They know exactly what they need. And they're very resourceful and they know how to get it. So, I would say, organize your local community. Put the block team leaders and let them be part of the process.
Let them help so that you can lead better, because just as the mayor said, FEMA is looking to you for your guidance. So, get some of that guidance from the local community because they will amaze you time and time again. If you let them really play a leadership role along with you, the efforts are going to be that much better.
And I assure you that they will appreciate it because people want to be involved, and they want to make a difference.
CROWLEY: Governor Fallin, it's a final question, bring us up to date on the citizen help that you've seen so far. Again, you're less than a week from that monster tornado, but what's it been like there in terms of what the congressman was just talking about ordinary citizens?
FALLIN: Well, it's just been absolutely remarkable and very helpful to see how the citizens have responded. I guess, that was the biggest thing I had to overcome immediately after the storm hit, I felt like I had to do everything right then and right at that place, but the communities did step up, the fire departments, the police officers, the emergency personnels, the local mayors. I mean, they were on the ground.
I could see them from the news media that was showing live. Right after the tornado hit the ground, I could see citizens running through the debris, running through the community going house to house, fire trucks, police cars immediately within five, ten minutes after it hit. Just immediately going into action. It's been very encouraging.
But our people are doing well. We're resilient. There's already a big path of debris that's been moved around. People are gathering their stuff. We're having a big faith service tonight, a prayer service to help with the healing process, itself. And it's been truly remarkable to see how our people have responded and how strong they are.
CROWLEY: Governor Mary Fallin, we will check back in with you over the weeks to come. It's a long process, as you just heard. Mayor Melodie Colbert-Kean, thank you so much for being here as well as Congressman Michael Grimm. I feel like you all ought to form a panel and bring in others who have faced this kind of thing and do it sort of a disaster how-to. Thank you so much all of you for your time this morning.
COLBERT-KEAN: Very good idea.
COLBERT-KEAN: Thank you.
CROWLEY: When we return, the president's counterterrorism speech gets mixed reactions as Yemen applauds (ph) and Republicans call it a victory for terrorists.
And later, who would have thought these two would agree on anything?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: The IRS has systemically violated the rights of Americans for almost two years. The treasury department knew about this last year.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) MINORITY LEADER: The American people deserve answers. I wish that she would have provided them. I don't know what her basis is for taking the fifth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Some analysts saw little that was new in the specifics of the president's big speech this week. Broadly, others heard the outlines of an Obama doctrine, the president's approach to foreign policy as 9/11 fades from the front page into the history books and the end of the U.S. war in Afghanistan comes into sight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, the core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the path to defeat. Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: The framework did not sit well in some corners of Capitol Hill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: To somehow argue that al Qaeda is, quote, "on the run" comes from a degree of unreality that to me is really incredible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Senate Intelligence Committee member, Saxby Chambliss, wrote, "The president's speech will be viewed by terrorists as a victory," adding, "We are changing course with no clear operational benefit." While the president argued against the notion of what he called a boundless global war on terror, he did not say the threat is gone, only that it's changing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Lethal yet less capable al Qaeda affiliates, threats to diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad, home-grown extremists, this is the future of terrorism. We have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: The Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee responded. The Obama administration's return to a pre-9/11 counterterrorist mindset puts American lives at risk. The war he said will continue whether the president acknowledges it or not. The author of that statement, Congressman Michael McCaul is next.
CROWLEY: Joining me now is Congressman Michael McCaul. He is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and a member of the intelligence committee, although I'm not sure that's right. Congressman, you sit on the intelligence committee?
MCCAUL: I don't, but it would be nice to.
CROWLEY: OK. Well, you know, I just gave you a promotion. I just read that and thought I don't think that's right. OK.
CROWLEY: Now that we have that corrected, let me -- I have to tell you when I saw your statement in response to the president's speech, I thought it was pretty tough. The Obama administration's return to a pre-9/11 counterterrorism mindset puts American lives at risk. So, basically, saying the president just put American lives at risk. Specifically, what has he proposed or done or said that makes you think that? MCCAUL: Listen, I think this is the most significant foreign policy address ever given by this president. And at the same time, I found many parts to it disturbing for many reasons. I think the rhetoric sort of defies the reality in terms of the threat level that we've all been briefed on.
I mean, the narrative is sort of that, you know, al Qaeda is on the run. They're defeated, let's claim victory, war's over. And then, let's go back to a pre-9/11 mentality. He actually said that the threat now is what it was before 9/11.
CROWLEY: You know, he did, congressman --
MCCAUL: I couldn't disagree with him more on that.
CROWLEY: I understand that, but that his words. And I know that Republicans have argued, look, this is a global war on terror, al Qaeda's still out there, but the president talked about al Qaeda affiliates that we still had to go after. He talked about targeting networks that would do America harm. He said if we don't get them first, they will kill Americans and I know that.
So, I'm trying to sort of -- I understand that Republicans don't like the rhetoric because they think it downplays the threat, but what about the actual things the president said? Because it didn't -- I'm not sure I heard something that to me says, oh, he's put Americans at risk. So, that's kind of where I was going.
MCCAUL: Sure. And, you know, I watched the speech. You know, core al Qaeda has successfully been denigrated tremendously. And that's a good thing. But I think, again -- and he does talk about the al Qaeda franchises, but he sort of diminishes that threat to the homeland. And I think that's where I take issue with him, because al Qaeda has evolved into a franchise global movement, if you will, that inspires and also is very tactical.
MCCAUL: We've seen, you know, Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood, Libya and Northern Africa. Now, we're looking at Syria, perhaps, Jordan and Saudi could be next. The Arab spring could be turning into a winter that I think poses a great risk to the homeland as well. I will tell you this.
He does talk a tough game about going against in a military way against some of these franchises, but when he calls for repeal of the authorize for use of military force which is what he did, that was what we authorized for 9/11, we authorized the military to go after the terrorist --
CROWLEY: Yes. I have to go back and look at the wording, but I think he called for reworking it. That the basis for the war in Afghanistan -- you know, nonetheless. I get your point.
MCCAUL: I watched it last night to get the specific language. And he does say we need to look at it again, but also repeal. And I think if you repeal that, then -- you know, I'm not for occupying countries. I don't think anybody is right now. But the idea that we can't have a counterterrorism footprint to respond to the future Bin Ladens of the world, I think that's dangerous.
If you're talking about repealing the authorization for the use of military force, then you're basically tying the president's hand on his own, I guess, because he's not going to want to use any special forces to go after any future threats.
CROWLEY: I wanted to ask you a quick question about Guantanamo Bay and the prisoners there. And it's a broader question than do we trust Yemen to keep, if we send some of these prisoners back to Yemen, could they really keep track of them and make sure they don't return to warfare against the U.S.?
And the broader question of what to do with people that you can't put into court because you're worried about sources or you got your information through torture, whatever it is that you think are too dangerous to let loose in the world, what does America do with those people who have neither been tried -- I realize they're not American citizens, but nonetheless, they haven't been charged with anything.
They won't be tried and we don't want to let them loose. Is there a moral dilemma here with just keeping people in perpetuity? MCCAUL: I think you raise a very serious question. I've been down to Guantanamo. There are 166 very dangerous terrorists down there. I saw Khalid Sheikh Mohammed during his prayer hour and it was very spooky to see the man who killed 3,000 people. Having said that, you know, the president's position was let's just close it down and find a solution to this.
I think the reverse should be true and that is we ought to be trying to find how to deal with them before we close this facility down. He also talked about returning some of these actors to Yemen.
MCCAUL: Which we know a quarter to a third of these guys return to the battlefield. And one last thing, Candy, name me one American city that would like to host these guys -- these terrorists in their country? I don't think --
CROWLEY: Well, no one's ever escaped from supermax I think is their response to that. But, you know, I agree that people don't want terrorists in their backyard, but they don't want murderers there either, and sometimes, it just happens.
But let me -- I have to move you quickly on to another subject because I know it's something that concerns you and hits right at your chairmanship and that is these stories out there about Iranian-backed hackers being able to hack in and have sort of alarming ways try to hack into oil and gas companies, electrical companies trying to get to the software in a way that could disrupt the flow of oil and gas, upset the electrical grid or otherwise mess with actually what makes America run.
How high is your fear about what's going on? How certain are you that, in fact, this is backed by the Iranian government?
MCCAUL: Well, it's one of the highest priorities on my radar screen, I would say. We can talk about the kinetic forces, al Qaeda blowing up things like we saw in Boston. But when you talk about cyber, it's a whole new world that's global, anonymous, can hit anywhere in the world. And the fact is Iran did hit -- in the Persian Gulf and wiped out 30,000 hard drives, simultaneously hit our finance sector in the United States.
Our financial sector continues to be under siege every day from Iran. And this, I think it's been publicly reported goes right back to the Iranian government itself. So, this, --
CROWLEY: So, you think they're actively trying to shut down -- you think they're actually trying to shut down our energy supply flow?
MCCAUL: There are three threats with cyber. One is criminal theft. One is espionage from China. They steal everything. Russia, the last threat, is the one that keeps me up at night the most and that is the cyber warfare piece to shut things down. That's what Iran is trying to do right now. And any other rogue nation like Iran that wants to do that, or God forbid, al Qaeda gets hand of this technology that could get into our critical infrastructures, oil and gas, financial sector, you name it, power grids. Yes, you talked about Sandy and Oklahoma and the devastation.
MCCAUL: A cyberattack in the northeast could cause the same impact level that Sandy did in the northeast and shut down the power grid. This is what we're talking about.
MCCAUL: And if Congress fails to act on this, we will have that on our hands.
CROWLEY: Congressman Michael McCaul, chairman of the house Homeland Security Committee. Scary stuff. Come back and we will talk more about it when you're back in Washington. Thank you.
MCCAUL: Thank you, Candy.
CROWLEY: When we return, there are sharp words for the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: What would I have the United States of America do? Lead. L-e-a-d. Four-letter word. The president does not lead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Our political panel Clarence Page, Ron Brownstein, and Newt Gingrich. Up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CROWLEY: Joining me now, Clarence Page of the "Chicago Tribune," CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein is also the editorial director of the "National Journal" and former House speaker and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. Gentlemen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning.
CROWLEY: On Memorial Day weekend, thank you for being here. The president's speech, on the one hand I just didn't hear details that I thought were new except for perhaps about Yemen and lifting the ban on sending Gitmo prisoners back to Yemen. On the other hand, it certainly stirred up Republicans. How did you take -- let's start with you, Mr. Speaker, how did you take that speech?
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think it's just stunningly, breathtakingly naive. He said at one point wars have to end -- well Trotsky said, you may not care about war, but war cares about you. I mean, right after you have somebody beheaded in London, you have a bomb go off in Boston, you have the Iranians as you were just told by Congressman McCaul every day trying to penetrate our system with cyber, you have an Iranian nuclear program underway and the president announces cheerfully the war's going to end because I'm not happy being a war president.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the question is whether that is -- those are threats and no one is denying those are real threats, the question is whether they fall under the rubric of war in the way we have understood. I found this speech fascinating in a couple respects. As you say, there was less - there were fewer specifics of change than there was a desire to set a new direction kind of thing.
CROWLEY: Like a mindset kind of thing.
BROWNSTEIN: He sort of pointed it -- it felt to me a speech where he's beginning to count back from the end of his presidency. The first time you see that mindset where he's thinking what is the architecture I want to leave behind. And in another way it's kind of striking historically when we've added power to the national security apparatus, we don't usually retrench it after, you know. It kind - it just kind of creates and grows larger. And this was a speech where he said at least I want to move in the direction of withdrawing some of the power that the presidency has been afforded post 9/11.
CROWLEY: He said that, Clarence. I'm not sure I - I mean he didn't say how or when or where, I also heard a president saying by the way, people out there want to kill us and we have to kill them first.
CLARENCE PAGE, COLUMNIST, "THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Well this was an aspirational speech. He was -- I think it was a speech by a president who knows a lot of his constituents are concerned about the direction the country's going. We can see by his drone policy and other policies he's not a wimp when it comes to exercising American force overseas. But he's also concerned about having a smart foreign policy in his words, that we have smart wars. That we don't get too deep into places...
CROWLEY: But the speaker and others have said this was - this was naive, right?
PAGE: It's not naive because he does understand that we've got to be vigilant out there. But also by overreacting, we can get ourselves into a quagmire abroad, we can have a drone policy kill too many people, we can have a Gitmo policy that detains innocent people. A lot of Americans are concerned about that. What he wants to say is I too am concerned, I'm going to work hard and John McCain has to work with him on Gitmo, he wants to move in that direction. But at the same time he's not letting everybody run free.
GINGRICH: You have problems in northern Nigeria, you have the Chinese volunteering to send troops to Mali. You have problems in Libya.
Well, it is. This is part of the problem we've had in two administrations now. No one wants to talk honestly about the fact that there is a radical Islamism on offense. It is on offense across the planet. It is what killed people in Boston. It's what just killed a soldier in London. I just saw a thing in which there was an attack in Paris today. This stuff's going on everywhere. And we will never be at peace in the pre-1941 sense that we are not threatened and that we don't have to actively take measures all the time. So the president's speech in that sense - and by the way, the last administration, the Bush administration had the same problem, no one wants to talk honestly about how big the threat is, how widespread it is, how fanatic it is, and how in its own mind is totally legitimate.
PAGE: How do you deal with the threat? That's what the debate is. There's no question that there's a threat out there.
BROWNSTEIN: To your point we are never going to go back to some moment where we feel completely free of threat I think is absolutely right. But the debate will be does that require the kind of expansive delegation of authority to the executive branch in the authorization? And is there a better legal architecture from which to kind of combat that threat going forward? Like I said what's fascinating about this he is as you say it's aspirational. He is pointing a direction here. He's not really telling us yet how he wants to get there, but I think those other shoes will come before the end because I think he - I think it's very clear in this speech that he wants -- he does not think this is the legal architecture he wants to leave behind.
CROWLEY: I want to move you to the IRS because that also occupied -- we had the spectrum of the woman who is in-charge of the tax exempt division both pleading the fifth and refusing to resign which was interesting. And then John Boehner, speaker, said something I thought was interesting because it sort of answers the questions people asked. What did the president know? And this is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: The White House was made aware about it last month yet no one, no one thought they should tell the president. Fairly inconceivable to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know.
GINGRICH: I think that's a really important moment for Republicans in particular to make a decision. Is this a gotcha moment? Or is this a major educational opportunity? And the example of it is David Axelrod, who went on television - and it's a great clip. He said, you know, the government is so big, so bureaucratic, so uncontrollable the president has no idea what's going on. Now, that is -- and David Ignatius said something very similar analyzing the Benghazi emails and saying what's really frightening is the total incompetence of the national security system to even work its way through something. So the question is not -- although I do find it amazing that this woman is now suspended with pay, a sign of the toughness of the American system today. You know, are we going to have systemic change? And are we going to talk about the fact that big government and big bureaucracy is inherently out of control by its very definition?
CROWLEY: Doesn't it say that a little bit? PAGE: Of course it does.
CROWLEY: Also the tax system is horrible.
PAGE: Why is the woman still in position? Because we're not sure that this is corruption or just another snafu.
CROWLEY: Sure but he got rid of the acting director of the IRS.
PAGE: Yes? I'm sorry. What did you say?
CROWLEY: They did get rid of the acting director of the IRS because the woman in charge of division --
PAGE: Yes. That's why I think it's generally agreed that their heads will - (INAUDIBLE) heads have to roll because people are angry about this situation. But the fact is the law that we're talking about is so vague and so confusing that it's not that clear that this was - that this happened because of prejudice against the tea party or because they were just looking for some shortcuts to see which (INAUDIBLE). BROWNSTEIN: Any time you have selective enforcement of federal enforcement of power, you have a serious issue. And it is right for Congress to be investigating this. On the other hand it's also important to be clear what John Boehner is talking about there. It is not that the president knew in advance or even whether the president knew in advance that this was done. It's just talking about the report that was done by the I.G. after the fact. And I believe that politically the danger here will remain contained to the administration unless and until it is proven that political appointees beyond the IRS directed the original decision to target the conservative groups. Without that, I think it's contained as a risk.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
CROWLEY: Stick around. When we return, the establishment Republicans take on the tea party.
CROWLEY: The old bulls versus the young turks in the Senate this week as the insurgent tea party Republicans took on one of the most senior members of their party on how to proceed on the budget. This time the old bull fought back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: The senior senator from Arizona urged this body to trust the Republicans. Let me be clear, I don't trust the Republicans. And I made it clear that I don't trust the Republicans and I don't trust the Democrats.
SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: We were not sent here to affirm the way the Senate worked.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We're here to vote. We're not here to block things. Maybe the senator from Utah ought to learn a little bit more about how business has been done in the Congress of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Uh-oh. More with our panel next
CROWLEY: Back with Clarence Page, Ron Brownstein and Newt Gingrich. I know that whenever party's out of power, there's always some kind of tussle for which direction will the party go. But this particular struggle seems more definitive than most. I think it plays into the immigration debate where we're now seeing Democrats going I don't know that we can even make this in the Senate much less the House. Is this more -- is this a heightened fight between sort of the more conservative and then the mainstream...
(CROSSTALK) GINGRICH: Well, from my perspective it's more of a struggle between the country and the old-timers. I mean, I was watching just now John McCain, who I like a great deal and a genuine American hero. 20 years ago he would have been with Ted Cruz and Mike Lee. I mean the idea that McCain is now the insider lecturing the new guys on being reasonable is just historically funny. And I think the country at large is wrestling with genuine problems. We have to solve immigration. We hate encouraging illegality. And we hate the idea that we're going to have another wave of amnesties after this one. So the country is - the whole country is genuinely on balance in a number of very serious issues.
BROWNSTEIN: First of all 20 years ago you were Ted Cruz and Mike Lee.
BROWNSTEIN: Certainly 30 years ago founded the Conservative Opportunity Society. Look I think the Republican party is going thought what the Democrats did from 1968 to 1988 when the party lost the popular vote to five out of six presidential elections. You had two strains in the party. One that says we have to get back to basics, we have to give people a real Democrat. And that was kind of the hope of Mario Cuomo. The other said we have to try to meet voters where they are and recognize what we're selling is no longer a majority and that was Gary Hart in the '80s and Bill Clinton in the '90s. I think you're going to see that very sharply in the Republican party and you do wonder if Ted Cruz as to Mitt Romney as George McGovern was to Hubert Humphrey. In other words...
CROWLEY: I'm sorry, that's like way too much for me.
BROWNSTEIN: The argument that the only way we're going to win is to give people the unadulterated purist.
CROWLEY: Purist. Right.
PAGE: Nothing concentrates the mind like losing five out of the last six elections. This is what happened with Democrats and what happens with Republicans now. They're getting to the point where they've got to settle this internal debate and I'm not sure if this next election cycle will be the one to do it because they're probably going to do very well in the midterms which means the party's right wing will be even more encouraged to stand fast, but they've got to move -- demographics are saying you have to do something to appeal to the Hispanic community among others, and immigration is not the key issue among Hispanics. Jobs and the economy are. But it is important symbolic issues.
CROWLEY: Sure. It takes it off the table.
GINGRICH: 30 states have Republican governors, 315 electoral votes. 24 states have Republican governors and Republican legislatures. 51 percent of the country. People out there in the governorships are doing brilliant things but...
GINGRICH: No. Wait, you have 315 electoral votes, you are a national party. My point is whether you're looking at Kasich, or Scott Walker or Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, you go around this country there are a lot of smart people doing a lot of common sense things that aren't necessary unconservative but they're actually working.
BROWNSTEIN: The (INAUDIBLE) is an important one. There's a high risk to Republicans that 2014 gives them a false positive in the way 2010 did. The electorate in the midterm is older and whiter at the time when whites over 45 are voting 60 percent-plus Republican than the presidential year. Especially with the IRS controversy looming, the opportunity for Republicans to further turn out their base, and they could have a good election in 2014 without solving any of the underlying demographic problems, as Clarence said, that has caused Democrats to win the popular vote in five out of six. So whether the party can come from that and then move to a more expansive, inclusive agenda in 2016 is not a simple equation.
CROWLEY: 15 seconds.
GINGRICH: That's what Reince Priebus is all about and I think the chairman is doing a good job and I think we will, in fact, recognize that a negative victory in '14 isn't the same as a positive victory in '16.
PAGE: Somebody has got to learn to compromise. That's what it comes down to.
CROWLEY: In general that's what the public say they want. Come back Clarence Page, Ron Brownstein, Newt Gingrich. Thank you, guys.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
CROWLEY: When we return, honoring the troops on this Memorial Day weekend.
And finally preparations are under way for tonight's Memorial Day concert on the mall. I had a chance to talk with concert co-host and actor Joe Mantegna in between rehearsals yesterday. I started out by asking him what the concert means to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE MANTEGNA, ACTOR: It brings more to me than I bring to it, I'll tell you that. It's my 12th year doing it. You stand on this stage. You look out at maybe a quarter of a million people and that Capitol Building (INAUDIBLE), if that doesn't light a fire in you, then nothing will.
CROWLEY: So 12 years ago would put us right kind of very close to 9/11. How has it changed for you?
MANTEGNA: Well, a lot has changed for me. Certainly my appreciation for the military. Unfortunately, it almost took an incident like 9/11 to in a way galvanize the country into understanding that we are not this isolated little island that safely stands alone from the problems of the rest of the world, and so, you know, I'm old enough to have grown through the Vietnam vet generation and I saw how in a way those vets were kind of like shunned and mistreated and kind of -- people just wanted to forget and kind of pretend it just didn't happen and wanted that whole thing to go away. Memorial Day is our most important holiday because it's the holiday that allows us to have all the other holidays. Without that, we don't have a country. We don't -- there's no reason to celebrate anything without the sacrifices our military has made for over 238 years.
CROWLEY: When you look back over your experiences with vets, either here or elsewhere, is there something that just grabbed at you and has stayed with you over time?
MANTEGNA: The one thing that grabs at me the most probably is something my friend Gary Sinise does. We try to visit these young men and women in these military hospitals. What always grabs me is you walk into a room and see a young man or a young woman and with severe battle injuries, perhaps lost in some instances all their limbs, and they look at me and they smile and say, oh, thank you, man, thank you for coming. They're thanking me.
CROWLEY: It gets to you.
MANTEGNA: You know, there's a lot of moments in that 90-minute show. I mean that's why I encourage people to watch, not because I want them to see, you know, be entertained or necessarily see what we do, but just because I think they will benefit from it. It will help them understand what Memorial Day is all about. For me it's the moment we play all the service songs for the branches of the military because it's a stirring thing. You know, they will play the navy song and you will men of all different ages, men and women standing up. The air force songs, the marines, the army, the coast guard. I mean that in itself, you know, with this backdrop.
CROWLEY: Joe Mantegna, thank you so much...
MANTEGNA: Thank you.
CROWLEY: ... for being with us. Have a good show.
MANTEGNA: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: From all of us here in STATE OF THE UNION have a good Memorial Day. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. If you missed any part of today's show find us on iTunes. Just search STATE OF THE UNION.
Fareed Zakaria, GPS, is next for our viewers here in the United States.