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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY
Interview with Dianne Feinstein; Interview with Ken Feinberg
Aired March 30, 2014 - 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 (voice-over): More planes, more ships, no leads.
Today, the sea is so big and the time is so short.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are trying to find small bits of wreckage in a vast ocean while we're throwing everything we have at it. The task goes on.
CROWLEY (voice-over): Hundreds of objects identified by satellite and plane, but not a single piece of debris tied to Malaysia Flight 370. A three-week search using fuzzy satellite pictures, fishing nets and everything in between finds no answers, breeding new questions.
How involved is the U.S.?
Do intelligence services know more than they're saying?
And are these images the best the world can do?
The chair of the Senate Intelligence panel, Dianne Feinstein, joins us with her take on the plane, the U.S.-Russian staredown over Ukraine and her charge that the CIA spied on her committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIF.: I have grave concerns that the CIA search may well have violated the separation of powers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY (voice-over): Suppose nothing is ever found. What next for aviation and for the families of those aboard the missing jet? Our experts look at the what if's.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOEHNER, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The administration is now resorting to an honor system to enforce it. What the hell is this, a joke?
CROWLEY (voice-over): Our panel takes on the latest ObamaCare (INAUDIBLE) and the Chris Christie revival.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), N.J.: To be able to run an efficient and effective office, you have to have lanes of traffic, especially moving towards me. I thought you would like that. (LAUGHTER)
CROWLEY (voice-over): Did the New Jersey governor get an easy pass this week?
This is STATE OF THE UNION.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Good morning from Washington, I'm Candy Crowley. Ten planes and several ships were involved in today's search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. An Australian military official says at least four orange objects a bit longer than six and a half feet were spotted in the search area and will be picked up.
There is about a week left before the batteries might run out on the pinger that is designed to help locate the plane's black boxes. The Australian ship Ocean Shield leaves for the search area Monday; aboard that ship, the U.S. Navy's high-tech black box detector and a special underwater vehicle.
And in Malaysia, frustrated relatives of Flight 370's passengers held a press conference today with banners demanding truth and evidence from the Malaysian government.
For more on the search, I'm joined on the phone by U.S. Navy Commander William Marks, who is aboard the U.S.S. Blue Ridge.
Tell me, Commander; first, thank you for joining us from afar. Tell me the latest you're hearing about the search effort.
U.S. NAVY COMMANDER WILLIAM MARKS: Hello, Candy, we had a P-8 Poseidon flying another mission today. They just landed a little while ago. They do, as they do every day, see some form of debris on the water. But typically that is trash or seaweed; they even see dolphins splashing around.
Nothing from today's search, so no conclusive debris from the wreckage. And what's important to realize is all the satellite imagery is helpful. But really that is not enough to get us concrete evidence of debris where our oceanographers can then do a reverse plot, reverse engineer the currents and the winds to come up with a starting point.
And that is really what we need. So what we're looking for between the U.S. Navy and any of the ships or aircraft out here is a conclusive piece of debris, which would allow our oceanographers to work backward, find this starting point, because without a starting point, we really can't put our pinger locator in a right position, and it is far too big of an area right now. CROWLEY: Well, that brings me to one of the questions I wanted to ask you, which is about that black box detector.
You still don't have an area; you still haven't found debris from the plane. And that debris would then help you calculate backwards to where the fuselage might be if the plane is in the ocean.
So what good is a black box detector right now?
My understanding is it only has about a mile range anyway.
MARKS: Yes, that is correct, and that's a function of really the strength of the signal that is sent out from the black box, it only -- the strength of that is only about a mile.
So without this position, it is really not of much use. And what we are doing is we're going to treat position as much as we can, but to be honest, if we moved this out last week it would have been going in a completely wrong direction.
So we have to be careful not to send it in the wrong place, but we also wanted to get it out there as close as we can to what we think is the right place. So we do have, you know, maybe a week or two left on this pinger, on the black box. And if that runs out you then have to use a side scan sonar.
So we have also put one of those on an Australian ship. So those two pieces of equipment can work sequentially there on that -- on that piece -- on the Australian ship.
But like I said, without good visual confirmation of debris, which we really have not had yet, it is tough to even go in the general direction.
CROWLEY: And pretty unbelievable.
U.S. Navy Commander William Marks, thank you so much for joining us again. And hopefully you will find something, and we actually will not be talking to you next week. But if not, we really thank you for your input.
MARKS: You're welcome. Thank you.
CROWLEY: Joining me now is chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein of California.
Let me ask you -- and use your position as chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and ask you if you are convinced that there is not a terrorism element to this missing plane.
FEINSTEIN: Well, so far there has been none. And but there is speculation, but there is nothing. And I think the commander really summed it up. It is a very, very hard situation because they really don't have what they need to carefully calculate a reasonable area where the ship may be. So -- where the plane may be. So this is a very difficult mission. I think it's the fact that so many nations are participating that they're getting more ships, more planes, a little bit more direction, being flexible, changing the places where they look. I think all of this is good.
But it also indicates that there is no real method of calculation that's functioning very well.
CROWLEY: One of the things the commander also mentioned was the satellite pictures that we're seeing. And they're, OK, they could show us a collection of stuff. But they can't really show us what that stuff is.
Because I wanted to ask you about these satellite pictures, because there is a lot of questions when you see them. They're kind of fuzzy. You can't really tell. Here's one. You know, look down; you can see stuff in the ocean.
I want to compare it to something else, which is a satellite picture of the bin Laden compound in Pakistan. That, you can see trucks. You can see housing.
And I'm told a lot of this has to do with the angle of the satellite, that you get blurry the more out of angle the satellite is.
But there are a lot of people who don't believe that the U.S. and others with sophisticated technology can't actually see better than the pictures we're seeing.
FEINSTEIN: Well, I think it depends on the satellite and the resolution that is provided by the satellite and how sophisticated the satellite is. I'm not going to go into what we have or what we don't have. But I think what I just said suffices.
CROWLEY: Can we assume that the U.S. does know more or can see more than we're seeing as relates to this plane?
FEINSTEIN: Not necessarily. I would answer that that way. I don't know whether more sophisticated satellites could be turned on to this area. I just don't know.
CROWLEY: Turned over time, because it has been three weeks, whether they could do that.
FEINSTEIN: I don't know.
CROWLEY: Yes, and so what I'm gathering from that is that you have not seen anything. And I asked this of the White House National Security Council. And you know, you have not seen anything that is more definitive than the sorts of things that we're seeing in public.
FEINSTEIN: No, have not.
CROWLEY: Have not. And have no more broader information of what happened to this plane or what might have happened? FEINSTEIN: No, and you have to understand that American intelligence doesn't gear itself to be ready for plane crashes. That is not its job. Our job is terrorism and missile defense and that kind of thing.
CROWLEY: And given the kind of equipment that the U.S. has, other nations have, has there been enough cooperation and back and forth between the intelligence services in the U.S. and those responsible in Malaysia?
How is that relationship?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I'm sure, if asked, our intelligence services would provide whatever data they could. They probably do not have data.
FEINSTEIN: But it would have to -- the Malaysians are in charge of this. And so they're using the techniques that they know, which may very well not be the most sophisticated.
CROWLEY: Right, do you think the Malaysians have given our folks that could be helpful, either on the technological side or on the intelligence side?
Has that side been cooperative?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I would leave that decision to people who have participated in this. I would suspect that, when you have one country in charge, that for countries that may have more sophisticated equipment, that may be difficult. You can offer but you cannot demand.
And so the Malaysians would have to ask.
Now certainly the Chinese have sophisticated equipment and I don't know whether they have been asked either.
CROWLEY: Well, they're in it whether they have been asked or not. I think their satellite pictures, by the way, are also incredibly blurry.
But I want to move you on because there are some other topics we want to get to. And that is first of all what is the state of play in your dispute with the Central Intelligence Agency which you think went into a Senate computer that was provided by the CIA in a safe location. You believe they took things out of it regarding your investigation into torture by the CIA.
FEINSTEIN: Well, I -- I don't know if you have noticed but I have done no press after I made a 40-minute speech on the floor. The speech was carefully put together. I believe it is accurate. And I believe those words should stand.
The problem is that the CIA went into Waldoff senate computers in a bona fide investigation that is being done of the detention and interrogation of detainees. Having said that, that is a problem. And it isn't the first time, it is actually it is actually the third time.
So this is a serious issue. I have asked for an apology and statement that it would never happen again. I have not received this to this day. That is of concern to me and I would really like to leave it at that. CROWLEY: Can you tell me, have you had any reaction from the CIA to your floor speech? Are you on speaking terms? Is there a back and forth?
FEINSTEIN: Oh, yes, we're on speaking terms. We just had a very good hearing on Syria Thursday and we will be doing other things, as well.
We are in the process of doing a further investigation on all the intelligence programs of this country. The irony is that the NSA program of data collection is the most overseen program we have. And there are thousands of other programs that need a look at and need some method to track them, follow them, evaluate them. And that is our next big effort after we finish this detention and interrogation report.
CROWLEY: Right. And I want to ask you about the NSA. But you've heard what the CIA director John Brennan had to say. And he said we don't hack into computers. From the folks that I have talked about that are looking at this from the agency and elsewhere, they say listen they knew that we could get into this computer and that there was what they called audit capability. And that this was simply a part of that.
FEINSTEIN: Well, that is not correct. And I really do not want to discuss it further.
CROWLEY: OK. All right. We will leave it there then.
In terms of the NSA.
FEINSTEIN: Yes, please.
CROWLEY: The president has said what he wants is a bill that will take the storage of NSA phone data, what number called what number for how long and where, and leave it with the phone companies. And then require a FISA -- a warrant for the feds to ask for that information. Both of those things are all right with you and how soon?
FEINSTEIN: Well, let me comment on them.
In the first place, the House has a bill, it is passing to do some of that. The president has said he would send us a bill and I hold him to this word because it is very important that we receive bill language as to exactly what the administration intends.
Here is the issue, the issue is whether the telecoms, all of them, are willing to hold this data. When we talked with them, they were not. They would most likely have to be compelled legislatively in a bill, which did so. And also offered liability protection, liability immunity when they participate...
CROWLEY: So if someone is spied on they're not held...
FEINSTEIN: That is correct. So that is one thing. What the president is proposing is that data only be held for 18 months instead of five years. That is a good suggestion, that the hops -- the of number -- if I were the principal terrorist calling you in the United States, that is one hop, the hops would be held to two as opposed to three. That is a good question comes, can a bill be passed. It is very controversial. There are a lot of different views right now. Can people come together to pass a bill?
The program itself, sunsets next year. So whether we take action right away I think remains to be seen. I am open to that action.
My concern has been, and let me state it very clearly, that if this is held by a large number of telecoms with their people doing the actual querying, is privacy, as controlled as it is with 22 vetted people at the National Security Agency who are supervised and watched with everything they do here, the final element that I think is a positive element that would come into this, is that there would be a court approval of every query. I would support that. I happen to think if it can be done an emergency basis, because time is of the essence, that that is helpful.
CROWLEY: I only have about a minute left, so I want to quick get you a question about Russia and the U.S. and the Russian troops along the eastern border and other parts of Ukraine, not just Crimea.
We now see Putin calling the president, we see John Kerry meeting with his counterpart, which suggests that perhaps Russia is open to some diplomatic overtures with Ukraine. But the key question here now I think for the U.S. is what are those troops doing along that border? What -- you see the intelligence, what do you think they're doing along the border?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I have seen that intelligence. I can't tell you what it is, but I can give you my view of what I have seen.
There is no question that there are 40,000-plus troops that they are staged in various areas. That to people who watch this, it looks like an invasion force. Putin has said it is an exercise. So that leaves a big question mark.
I think what gives me a sense that we may be able to solve this situation is the fact that Putin did call our president and suggestions were made and there will be a meeting this week between the Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia and our Secretary of State Kerry, and there will be an ability to solve this.
I'm a student in college of Russian history. Any student of Russian history knows how important the Crimea was and is to Russia. Khrushchev gave the Crimea, ceded the Crimea, essentially to Russia (sic) in 1954. He did it for, I think reasons of interests to Russia.
The Crimea is dominantly Russian, a referendum was passed. That, I think, has been done. But Ukraine is a different subject.
CROWLEY: So to you, you get the Crimea thing. FEINSTEIN: I get the Crimea thing. The Ukrainian situation is very, very different. And I have deep concerns, I have a deep persuasive hope that Russia has fined, as has been termed, an off-ramp and not go ahead with this. And that diplomacy is made to make up for it.
There are many good things that Russia is going to gain in trade. I mean, one of them is the signing for an agreement for a gas line in May with China. Now, whether this happens or not becomes questionable, because the Chinese have long been concerned about Russian aggression on another border.
So this is a big issue that needs solution.
CROWLEY: Thank you so much. Never enough time. Dianne Feinstein, come back again.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much.
CROWLEY: Will the mysterious disappearance of Flight 370 impact the way we fly in the future? Next, on State of the Union.
CROWLEY: I'm joined now by retired United Airlines captain, Roy Liggett, who wrapped up a long career flying 777s.
And Don Philips -- he was known for decades as the dean of aviation reporters, formerly with "The Washington Post" and "The International Herald Tribune."
Thank you all for joining us this morning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning.
CROWLEY: First to you, Don, let's say we never find out what happened to this plane, which seems impossible in this day and age, but let's say we don't.
Are there lessons that we've already learned that you -- somebody said to me every time there's a plane crash -- and it's not often, but every time there is, something changes.
What do we know now?
DON PHILIPS, FORMER "WASHINGTON POST" TRANSPORTATION REPORTER: Well, we know a couple of things. One thing we know is that there are areas of the world where things can disappear. It isn't -- it doesn't mean that there's something terrible going on. It just means that there are areas of the world where there's not enough coverage, uh, in various ways.
And therefore, this is probably not something mysterious. It's probably not something that people will say some day, oh, well, this is a -- this is something that God knows what happened to.
It's just simply that we may find it.
CROWLEY: Things disappear.
PHILIPS: Or -- or it may be years.
CROWLEY: Does it a call for -- does it call for a different way to track airplanes?
Does it call for a way that transponders can't be easily turned off, although I understand they have to -- at some point, a pilot has to be able to to do that.
PHILIPS: Well, I don't know how to answer that because I don't know what happened. And once we know what happened, it's possible we can get an answer.
The answer may be -- well be different for different parts of the country.
Right now, inside the United States, extra equipment like that would -- for planes that fly mainly in North America, would -- would be useless.
CROWLEY: Right. Right.
Captain, one of the things I wanted to talk to you about is that so much attention has been given to the captain of this plane. Again, we don't really know what happened.
CROWLEY: But the fact is that the -- the spotlight has rested heavily along this -- on this pilot.
I wanted to get your reaction to that.
LIGGETT: Well, I think, in a lot of respects, it's very unfortunate, because in a lot of cases, we're talking about things that we call facts which really aren't facts. We don't have any clues at this point as to what actually occurred on this flight.
You know, is it possible that something nefarious occurred in the cockpit?
Yes, that's one of the possibilities. But I could -- I could lay out probably several different scenarios whereby something occurred on the airplane and that the crew did a valiant job trying to control a situation and in the end, things just didn't work out. It's happened before.
I think we're probably putting -- at this point, with the information we have -- probably a little bit more emphasis on that area than we should. We found out this morning, the FBI is now saying that the flight simulator he had, which there was a lot of talk about how the data had been erased actually was just overwritten, which would be a normal state of affairs.
So I -- I think we have to be a little careful as to what we talk about as we progress. It's OK to speculate, but we have to make sure we understand this is only speculation.
LIGGETT: Right. So you can see a way that the abrupt turn west, left turn if you look to the map, could not have -- you know, was not necessarily programmed in. You can see a way -- I mean everyone I've talked to about the 777 -- and, Don, I want you to chime in on this, as well -- has said perfect plane, you know, this is just no -- I mean I -- I've had very few people who think this was a safety issue with this plane, which I find kind of amazing.
LIGGETT: Well, and -- and it is. It does have an excellent reputation.
As far as that turn, I know there's been a lot of speculation about that. But I'll give you a for instance which I think could help explain one reason why it could have happened.
If I'm at 35,000 feet and I have to get down fast, for example, I lose cabin pressure, I have smoke in the cockpit, uh, you can dissipate smoke in an airplane at lower altitude quicker than you can at high altitude, and I have to get down, I have no idea who's under me. I'm on an established airway.
Chances are pretty good that I'm not the only airplane on that airway.
So what do I do?
CROWLEY: (INAUDIBLE) something abrupt like get out of it?
LIGGETT: I turn off the airway abruptly.
LIGGETT: Because I'm in a hurry to get down. And you have to understand, when we do these emergency descents -- and they're fun to practice, by the way, in the airplane, we're coming down at pretty close to 20,000 feet a minute.
LIGGETT: Which is a streamlined brick. And so you're -- he's getting out of the way. So that's a perfectly plausible explanation.
CROWLEY: Don, I'm going to give the last question to you, and that is, over all of your many years covering aviation for "The Post," have you ever seen anything quite like this?
Is this a one-off? PHILIPS: It's not exactly that. It's gone on longer than many have. But unfortunately, the press in general, TV in particular, and now that many of us have left the -- "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times" and others do far too much speculation. And it just goes on for days and days and days.
PHILIPS: And that has created some real problems.
CROWLEY: Yes. And I'm sure it has. Patience is not a great virtue these days in news...
CROWLEY: -- when you can sit around, you know, and -- and kind of look at the story.
Don Philips, Roy Liggett, thank you both so much for coming in.
I appreciate it.
LIGGETT: My pleasure.
PHILIPS: Thank you.
CROWLEY: Malaysia Airlines is offering families a $5,000 initial payment for each missing passenger. When we return calculating the cost of a life with victim compensation expert Ken Feinberg.
CROWLEY: Malaysia Airlines offered initial compensation to the families of passengers lost on flight 370. And soon insurance companies and lawyers will start working on the grim calculations that will assess a monetary figure to each passenger.
Joining me now, Attorney Ken Feinberg. He worked on compensation disbursements for 9/11 victims, the BP oil spill and the Boston Marathon among others. Ken, thanks. I would say it is nice to see you but we're always talking about something really awful. Let me start with this scenario. They never find the plane, what happens?
KENNETH FEINBERG, VICTIM COMPENSATION EXPERT: Montreal Convention, in place or international treaty Malaysian airlines will very likely pay a presumptive amount of about 150 to about $175,000 per passenger, to the families of the passengers. The families will have an opportunity under that treaty to try and seek additional compensation from the airline and the airline only, if they can show lost income, pain and suffering, all the traditional tort concepts. But it is pretty straightforward under that treaty.
CROWLEY: And yet we're seeing all of this activity, if you will, from lawyers who are seeking information. And again under the scenario that nothing is found that points to what happened. It basically then really becomes a contractual, we say we get you from point a to point b, and we didn't therefore. Here is money and nobody else can file -- well anybody can file suit at any time but you don't see a basis for it. FEINBERG: That is right, never underestimate the creativity of the American legal profession. But it is hard for me to see a Malaysian airline flying from Malaysia to China, almost all of the passengers, foreigners, not domestic U.S. citizens. Hard for me to see how there is any real likelihood absent finding the plane, that this case could ever end up in U.S. courts.
CROWLEY: And let's say that they go a couple of years or whatever and they do the payouts. And then we find -- and the data boxes and there is something wrong with the engine or something that can be traced to Boeing. Then, could one sue again?
FEINBERG: Sure, if the statute of limitations has not run. And if you find the plane. And if you -- in finding the plane you can discover or investigate a mechanical failure. I mean there are all of these unknown scenarios. But I think unlike some of these programs after 9/11, you mentioned or the oil spill in the Gulf there is no real fund here or a special compensation fund. This is rather straightforward and conventional under existing law.
CROWLEY: And could -- there is one U.S. passenger, adult passenger on board the plane. That, too, has to happen in -- any compensation at this point has to happen in either Malaysia or in China if there is no cause found, if they don't find the plane?
FEINBERG: I think that is right. Even if it is an American citizen, first under the treaty, is the American citizen living here or domiciled in China or Malaysia, point number one. Point number two even if the American citizen passenger were domiciled here in Pittsburgh or Washington, or Washington, D.C., the federal courts I think would immediately say, I think, the venue for this whole litigation really is Malaysia or maybe China. But certainly not a federal court sitting in Washington, D.C.
CROWLEY: And U.S. courts have been pretty -- juries have been pretty generous in global terms to folks who have lost loved ones. Could we expect that the Malaysian courts might not be as -- what is the word --
FEINBERG: Generous? I think that is right.
FEINBERG: I think that's -- there are no courts quite as generous as the courts here in the United States. But getting a litigation to remain in the United States in a fact pattern that you have described involving Malaysian airline, I mean, really highly unlikely, no matter how creative lawyers might be.
CROWLEY: As you said they can be quite creative, and you're one of them. So let's just (INAUDIBLE). Ken Feinberg, thank you. It's always good to see you. FEINBERG: Glad to be here. Thank you, Candy.
CROWLEY: When we return, Chris Christie sounds like a man with the presidency on his mind. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Whether you're the governor of a state or the president of a country, all the people who watch you and rely upon you for leadership will read every sign and signal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Has the New Jersey governor put the bridge scandal in his rear view mirror? Our political panel is next.
CROWLEY: Joining me around the table, Bill Burton, deputy White House press secretary during Obama's first term, Darlene Superville, White House reporter for the Associated Press, conference, and Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist and CNN political commentator. Thank you all for joining us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
DARLENE SUPERVILLE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": Thank you.
CROWLEY: Let me start with Obamacare, it's the March 31st deadline, but now it is not really the March 31st deadline, it some other deadline. So the people who might may have had problems can sign up, whatever. The Republicans grabbed onto that and said, see. It just doesn't work. Meanwhile, the White House was out saying, six million people have enrolled here. It's a really good week for us. So which was it? Good week or bad week?
BILL BURTON, FORMER DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Amazing week. Six million people have signed up and that's before this huge surge and people who have come to the website and who are signing up right (INAUDIBLE). You know they are going to announce some big number at the end of the enrollment period, which should be impressive. This is an enormous undertaking. More than 10 million people besides the six million who had signed up now have health insurance that didn't (ph) currently have it. People are not being denied health care because of pre-existing conditions. And you know, taking on such a big thing is hard and yes there were some bumps, but ultimately this is a great development for America.
KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, Obamacare numbers speak for themselves is a very unpopular program. It's a political liability for Democrats. No matter how Bill or other Democrats spin it a number of Democrats are going to be running in this 2014 midterm election, trying to draw a contrast with the White House and essentially running away from the president on this. So I increasingly think that the public sees it is as a poorly implemented and too costly right now. And it's going to be a big reason that Republicans had very good gains in the 2014 midterms.
SUPERVILLE: But you do have to sort of chalk it up to a good week for the White House, when you consider going back to October when the opening enrollment period began and there were all the problems at the website. And there were a lot of doubts about whether the White House would even meet its six million target. And so here it has met the target and could possibly exceed it.
MADDEN: Well, that six million target is actually -- it's a reduced target from what they previously had in. We don't know how many of these people have actually paid their premiums, and the patient profiles which was designed to keep cost in line as part of the overall program. The patient profile, we have a lot more -- a lot more older population as part of these enrollees, and that's going to send the cost soaring. So a lot of these implementations -- every sort of milepost on this implementation of this bill have been a problem for the White House.
BURTON: But a lot of people haven't paid yet because they haven't billed yet. If you look at just one state Vermont, were we've got numbers from 94 percent of the folks have paid their premiums if they signed up in January and February. So those numbers are actually pretty good. If you compare it to Medicare Part D, the enrollment far surpasses it and it's on a much bigger scale than that program was. And yes, the politics of this are shaky. I'm not going to sit here and say this is a huge -- the biggest political asset the Democrats have going into the election, especially when the battlefield is districts that Mitt Romney largely won. But ultimately I think that Democrats are -- they're going to do what is right for their district. They're either going to, you know, fight and show what is good about Obamacare or they're going to show where it can be fixed.
MADDEN: Alex Sink lost in Florida and she didn't even vote for it. So a lot of Democrats out there that voted for it are in big trouble (INAUDIBLE).
BURTON: It is a tough -- it's a tough environment.
CROWLEY: It is -- it is a tough environment. And based on that particular subject too, on Obamacare. Will (ph) need more time to play out if it is going to be a success. Can they make it by November?
BURTON: I don't think that -- I don't think the environment is driven particularly by Obamacare. I think that the public is basically split on the issue. I think the president suffers from what a lot of presidents suffer from. Once (ph) you get into the middle of your second term you often have approval ratings that go down and down and down because the American people are kind of looking around the corner to what is next. But I think Obamacare as an issue on policy, it's great for Americans, on the politics, it's a mixed bag.
MADDEN: And disapproval ratings are -- keep going up and up.
CROWLEY: The disapproval ratings are going up. But let me -- I would have to turn you to the Chris Christie came out -- coming out party this week. He commissioned an investigation into himself. Came out saying he had nothing to do with Bridgegate. And I was particularly struck by an exchange he had with Diane Sawyer on "ABC World News." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: I am who I am. And for some people they love it. I will tell you when I travel around New Jersey I hear from most people that is the thing they love the most.
DIANE SAWYER, "ABC WORLD NEWS": And what about Iowa?
CHRISTIE: Iowa. I think they love me too, in Iowa, Diane. I have been there a lot. I think they love me there too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Wow, he is feeling pretty good.
MADDEN: You know, Iowa voters have a funny way of deciding who they love, rather than being told that they should love Chris Christie. And you know -- and look. If you look at the numbers out there "The Des Moines Register" or one of these -- one of these (INAUDIBLE) out there had a poll and he has taken a hit with a lot of Iowa voters.
And I think he has taken a hit with a lot of Republican voters across the country. The question is whether or not it's a fatal one, and I don't believe it is. I think there's a long way from here until people decide that they get into this race and when (ph) we know the field is and then when that field starts to match up with each other it's going to be a much different dynamic.
SUPERVILLE: Right. He's feeling a little bit vindicated with this report that came out last week that said he knew nothing about Bridgegate. And so he's going to try to, you know, come out and sort of recapture some of the ground that he lost, you know, to Rand Paul, for example, who now is ahead of Christie in a lot of GOP presidential horse race polls. So that's -- so that's part of what he's starting to do.
BURTON: But Christie always had these problems that were much bigger than just the bridge, and the problem for him is that Bridgegate is -- you know, it's a symbol of his bigger combustible problem. That people think that you know, he's out there just trying to get after folks, he's yelling at people at press conferences, he's yelling at teachers or whoever asks him things at town halls. And if you look at what -- Kevin and I were just talking about this in the green room. If you look at what happened in Las Vegas where he referred to Palestine as occupied territories, I mean that's the sort of thing that shows that he's just -- he's not on top of his game like you need to be when you're a presidential candidate.
CROWLEY: Right but he's not in a presidential -- I mean they are all going to make really stupid (ph) mistakes which that was one. Would you not agree, though, that Chris Christie's persona is -- you see as a fault but a lot of voters look and love that confrontational bring it on, hey, they love me there and you know -- he says I am what I am and they love me for that. Is that not true?
BURTON: Yes. Go ahead. Sorry, Darlene.
SUPERVILLE: It is. Because the public is so used to politicians who are very scripted and careful and, you know, can't do anything without being told what to do. And here's Chris Christie who sort of comes out and is not afraid to speak his mind. And he's taking on members of the public, the press, people eat that stuff up.
BURTON: But the problem is he has no control over it. Like even going into this last Election Day, a week before the election he pops off at some teacher who asks him a question. At a point in which he's ahead by approximately 200 points in the polls. So I just think that he doesn't have control over it in a way that's going to be --
MADDEN: Darlene has a good point. Like the essence of Chris Christie's popularity is that he's not this blow-dried politician and that he's a -- and in many ways he's very different from what people don't like about Washington, D.C. right now. It's all talk and it's all rhetoric. And here's somebody who actually says what he means, means what he says. The question I think for Chris Christie and his personality is does it wear very well with Iowa voters and then New Hampshire and then Nevada and then South Carolina.
CROWLEY: And could we all agree -- and I don't have much time, yes or no would really help. Can we all agree that this is not over? This was a study commissioned by, you know, a law firm he knew that cleared him. There are other things out there. So Bridgegate as we call it isn't over yet.
MADDEN: Yes. The study for anybody who is a real big supporter of Chris Christie, it's an exoneration. If you don't like Chris Christie, it's just a whitewash. Somewhere in the middle those folks still haven't made up their mind. They're still really (ph) undecided. Hasn't persuaded any folks one way or the other.
CROWLEY: Kevin Madden, Bill Burton, Darlene Superville, thank you for joining us.
SUPERVILLE: Thank you.
CROWLEY: All of you. Coming up at the top of the hour, Fareed Zakaria, "GPS," looks at China's response to missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370. Plus new details on the search for the jet.
CROWLEY: Thank you for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. If you missed any part of today's show you can find us on iTunes. Fareed Zakaria, "GPS," is next, after a check of the headlines.