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Interview With Minnesota Senator Al Franken; Interview With Illinois Senator Richard Durbin; Interview With California Congressman Xavier Becerra; Interview With Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; Interview With Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales

Aired November 16, 2014 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: ISIS releases a new video claiming to have beheaded another American, threatening to bring its violence to U.S. streets.

Today, the Senate's number two Democrat, Dick Durbin, on ISIS abroad and politics at home.

Plus, the more things change, the more they seem the same.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And that's going to happen. That's going to happen before the end of the year.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We're going to fight the president tooth and nail.


CROWLEY: The showdown over immigration with Congressman Xavier Becerra, former Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Then, Ted Cruz calls it Obamacare for the Internet.


SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: He has it completely wrong. This is a free speech issue, too.


CROWLEY: Senator Al Franken on how regulating the Internet will actually keep it the same.

And Obamacare redux -- our political panel on open enrollment and open hunting season on the Affordable Care Act.


Good morning from Washington. I'm Candy Crowley. This morning, the militant group ISIS claiming to have killed

another American, aid worker Peter Kassig. If confirmed, he would be the fifth Westerner to have been beheaded since the summer. In an ISIS video, the group again threatens the United States by telling President Obama that -- quote -- "We will begin to slaughter your people on your streets."

Joining us now is senior international correspondent Nic Robertson.

Nic, you know, a human tragedy of horrible proportions. What is the ISIS plan? How does this fit in to where they're headed?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is part of a much larger propaganda message.

This makes this particular video different from the previous ones. There is a narrative here that tells how ISIS grew from Iraq and then into Syria, of where it plans to go. This video comes hard on the heels last week of five different radical Islamist groups in Algeria and Libya and Saudi Arabia, in Yemen and in Egypt, all pledging loyalty towards ISIS.

They promote that idea. They threaten the United States. They threaten Great Britain. They threaten to bring attacks to our streets. This is different as well in as much as we don't hear Peter Kassig speak. We are told this -- what we're seeing is the aftermath of his execution.

It's also the most barbaric video that we have seen to date, almost made in a sort of movie Hollywood-esque style, where there are executions, cold-blooded executions of Syrian military officials.

CROWLEY: And the message is, first of all, one of terror. They want to terrorize the U.S. This is horrible stuff. But we -- at the same time as we see this, we have the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff over in Baghdad saying that he believes the U.S. presence there has made a difference there, that they pulled Iraq back from the precipice. At the same time, ISIS is telling us they're stronger.

ROBERTSON: ISIS is telling us that they're growing. That's their message. There's no reference to the losses they have taken on the battlefield by the airstrikes over the past couple of months.

It almost seems as if they have sort of rushed this out with a Peter Kassig element in it. The Peter Kassig element takes -- as horrible as it is, takes only a short portion of this long video, that this had been in production for some time. General Dempsey makes this statement, and they think, OK, we will put out our video. We will include this American element in it, if you will, in this longer narrative.

So it's very much their message answering that, but it's been in preparation for a while. I don't think we can necessarily link the execution directly to this.

CROWLEY: Exactly.

Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, thanks for coming in, Nic. I appreciate it.

I want to bring in now Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. He is the number two Democrat in the Senate.

And I want to start with ISIS, Senator. We now have either there or on their way about 3,000 U.S. troops to serve as advisers. We have also heard this week General Dempsey before Congress saying, you know, we may need to put Americans on the front lines, you know, near the border with Syria, near the border with Turkey to help out. How would you feel about that?

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), MAJORITY WHIP: I can just tell you, Candy, that this video that we have seen here, if verified, is a tragic reminder of the savagery and -- of ISIS and the complexity of our challenge.

We have to look at this, as I see it, as a common enemy, but two different battlefields, dramatically different battlefields. We are seeing progress in Iraq because we have new leadership. The country is coming together. They are leading the charge, the Iraqi army, with the direction and support of the United States, and making real progress.

Now look at Syria. It is a charnel house which has been for more than three years just a scene where countless numbers of militia and different forces are at work, a much more complex challenge.

I will tell you, many of us feel, I think the American people feel it would be a serious mistake for us to make a commitment of land troops into these theaters. We have to think long and hard about the best way to defeat this terrible terrorist group.

CROWLEY: So, you -- you would be opposed to U.S. troops accompanying troops of Iraq or Kurdish soldiers or Syrian rebels? You would be opposed for front-line activity with U.S. troops?

DURBIN: I want to draw this line carefully.

We need to provide support to those that are fighting ISIS. And we can provide that support, logistically, training, intelligence, air cover. There are many things we have already accomplished successfully. But the notion of sending in rotational troops, as we saw in Iraq in the past, and in Afghanistan, I think we have learned our lesson.

The president has the right course here. He is gathering a coalition of Arab and Muslim states and others who are going to try to help to defeat ISIS, but it has to be homegrown, regionally supported, diverse enough so that it's not just a United States operation, but an international operation.

CROWLEY: But, Senator, if that were not enough -- if that were not enough, as certainly the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff a little bit implied when he said perhaps we need some folks to accompany these troops to where the fight is, if it were not enough, then what?

DURBIN: Well, I can tell you there are many who are anxious to send troops forward. I am not one of them.


DURBIN: I think we learned a lesson and paid a bitter price when we put troops on the ground on a long-term basis in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Let us support a homegrown, indigenous and locally inspired effort to bring stability to the region.


And just one last question about this. Do you think the president ought to be asking Congress for consent for this under the War Powers Act? It's been 90 days since he sent the first troops back to Iraq. And that's the -- you know, the trigger for the War Powers Act. He hasn't asked for congressional consent.

Why aren't you all asking for him to come and ask for permission to conduct what is a war?

DURBIN: Candy, last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at least the Democratic Caucus, sat down with Senator Menendez and spelled out an approach to this, an authorization for the use of military force that is more explicit and timely, considering the threat that we face.

I would like to see us move on it now, now, before the new Congress comes in. We should have a bipartisan agreement giving the president express authority using our constitutional responsibility, putting a time frame and some limitations on what we are doing in the Middle East.

CROWLEY: OK, let me -- let me move you to some domestic things that have happened post-election.

First of all, the Senate has -- Senate Democrats have added a new position to its caucus, Senator Elizabeth Warren, well-known as a leading progressive voice. Is this a signal that Democrats feel they have not been progressive enough, that they have not confronted Republicans enough, and, therefore, you create a whole new position for a progressive voice?

DURBIN: I think it's something else. I think it's a recognition that Elizabeth Warren, and I might add Amy Klobuchar, who have been added to our leadership team, are two extraordinary people who can articulate the Democratic position and really go toe-to-toe in the debate, so that we move forward on the issues.

I think that Harry Reid, all of us have confidence that Elizabeth Warren is a great spokesman for our caucus and for our party on a national basis.

CROWLEY: Two specific issues coming up right now, one of them immigration, we expect that the president -- the president certainly says that he will very soon move to protect some of those who are in the U.S. without documents from deportation.

The Republicans have made it known that this is going to -- quote -- "poison the well," that this is not a good thing to do. Why shouldn't the president step back and say, hey, you got until March, pass something by March, or I'm moving on this?

DURBIN: I can tell you the Republicans can't have it both ways.

For over a year-and-a-half, we have left on their table in the House of Representatives a bipartisan immigration reform bill to address our broken immigration system. They refuse to call the bill or any aspect relating to the bill. And now they say to the president, we don't want you to lift a finger to solve the problem.

This president is not going to go gently into his last two years. He's going to lead, as he is expected to as our president. And I hope that John Boehner and the Republicans will understand at least the message of the last election was, solve problems. Don't just go to a political standoff. Do something.

If they fail to do it, if the Republicans fail to do it, the president will act, and I will support him.

CROWLEY: So, put you down as, you think the president should just go ahead and act, not give Congress any time to pass something?

DURBIN: Well, unless there -- I have given up on Mr. Boehner on this issue. If he wants to step forward and make some explicit promise that the House of Representatives is going to move on comprehensive immigration reform now, while we're in this lame-duck session, then it's another story. Without that, the president should move.

CROWLEY: And let me talk a little about the Keystone pipeline, this sort of transmission pipeline from Canada down to the Gulf.

The House has passed it. The Senate's going to act on it this week. Will it pass?

DURBIN: It's within a vote or two. As a whip, I have done the counts and I can tell you that it appears it may succeed or fail on a procedural vote, with one or two senators making a difference. I believe the president should...

CROWLEY: So the 60 -- you're short of the 60?

DURBIN: Well, we were one vote short as we left last week. But I know they're burning up the phone lines and e-mails trying to find that vote to support the procedural move. I don't know how successful they have been.

CROWLEY: And if it should pass with the 60 votes and get to the president's desk, would you tell him to sign it?

DURBIN: Every indication is, the president will veto an attempt to preempt the regular process of reviewing the permit for this pipeline. I think that it should go through the orderly process.

The Republicans believe that the president's power should be taken away, it should be moved on a fast track. But, remember, the oil that is going to flow through that pipeline is not going to be used in the United States or reduce gas prices in the United States.

It will head to the Gulf and be exported to other countries. So, I think the president should use his authority in a timely way so that we make a decision on this pipeline soon.

CROWLEY: As you -- and you emphasize timely. This has been quite a while this has been going through -- quote -- "this process."

DURBIN: It has been.

CROWLEY: So, you would like that to speed up still?

DURBIN: And of course it's -- yes, I would, but, of course, it's been quite a while, with litigation in states like Nebraska...


DURBIN: ... over whether we're moving forward on this.

So, give the president the opportunity to use his authority on a timely basis.

CROWLEY: Senator Dick Durbin out of Illinois for us today, thank you for joining us.

DURBIN: Thanks, Candy.

CROWLEY: Next up, three prominent Latino leaders on the legality and morality of protecting millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.


CROWLEY: As you just heard from Senator Dick Durbin, President Obama is expected to take executive action any day now that would protect millions of undocumented residents here in the U.S. from being deported.

With me now, Judge Alberto Gonzales, attorney general under President George W. Bush, Congressman Xavier Becerra, fourth-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House, and Antonio Villaraigosa, one-time mayor of Los Angeles, where almost half of all residents claim a Latino heritage.

And you all are practically neighbors in California.

(LAUGHTER) CROWLEY: Let me -- I want to start out with a legal question,

because there has been...


CROWLEY: Yes, I know.


CROWLEY: And that is, there is some question by some Republicans that the president has the authority to -- essentially, what we believe he will do is protect certain groups of those without papers from deportation, sort of moving them down the line of who you would deport.

ALBERTO GONZALES, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: You know, I'm not prepared to say that he does have the authority, although, as your -- one of your last guests said, in 2011, President Obama did say that he didn't have the authority in a group before Univision.

I start with the Constitution, where Article II, Section 3, requires that the president take care that the laws are faithfully executed. From my perspective, I don't think the president has the authority to amend, repeal or suspend the law or fail to refuse a law based solely on policy.

But I do know that the courts have said the president does have a great deal of discretion in terms of the enforcement of the law. And so the question is whether or not someone who wants to challenge the president's authority here has to go to court and has to overcome two significant hurdles. And that is, has the president abused the discretion in this case and does the person have standing?

From my perspective, I think where the real debate should occur is -- putting aside the question of legality, which is an important question, should the president be doing so at this time as a matter of policy? And I think -- from various reasons we can talk about, I happen to believe it's ill-advised and short-sighted to take executive action at this particular time.

CROWLEY: And that's a -- that's the political question now, is whether this is the appropriate time.

I want to ask you all a process...

ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA (D), FORMER MAYOR OF LOS ANGELES: Though I would like to speak to that.

CROWLEY: Of course. Go ahead.

VILLARAIGOSA: And there actually have been 70 years of precedents in this regard.

CROWLEY: Ronald Reagan, as you know.

VILLARAIGOSA: Well, no, starting with Roosevelt and Truman with the bracero program, Eisenhower, Johnson, Kennedy all brought in Cubans.

My stepdad came in as a result of that. Every since -- 20 times since the 1970s, you have seen presidents exercise judicial, prosecutorial discretion, so this isn't a first time. It's happened again and again and again and for nearly 70 years.

CROWLEY: Let me talk to you a little bit about the process.

Let's say that this goes through. One of the things that folks point out is that when Ronald Reagan -- and the last time there was major immigration reform was in the Reagan administration, and there were five million, I think, at that point undocumented folks in the country, and that was that, like, OK, now we have taken care of this problem.

And then what happened was, of course, now we're up to 11 million or 12 million. It really depends on who you talk to. What in what the president is doing now -- let me put it the other way. Doesn't what the president is expected to do, which is to sort of protect these -- some folks from deportation, encourage people to keep coming across the border?

BECERRA: Actually, Candy, I think it's going to discourage.

And you can take the -- the evidence of what happened over the summer, when we had a lot of young children from Central America coming. Today, that's gone down to a trickle. Why? Because people back home got the word, you know what? You don't get to stay. Why am I going to send a child on a very dangerous journey, paying a lot of money that we don't really have to do something when they're going to come right back?

Remember that the president, as you outlined, can only defer a deportation. He's not granting folks a path to citizenship, a green card. He is simply saying, look, I'm going to prioritize how I execute the laws, because we don't have enough resources to go after the 10 million or 11 million people.

So, in Los Angeles a week ago, two suspects for murder back in their home countries were caught in L.A. Today, they're on a path to be deported, because they should be out of here. So prioritize those who should be out of here, criminals, traffickers of gangs and drugs and human beings. Get rid of those folks. Terrorists, make sure we get rid of those folks and make sure that you're letting those who are working hard, going to the grocery store, trying to come back home to feed the family, let them -- let them prove that they will have an opportunity in the future.

CROWLEY: I think there is a work -- a work visa involved in this somehow, but we haven't seen what the president...

BECERRA: But it's still all temporary.

CROWLEY: Right. Right.

I want you all to talk a little personally, because everybody talks about -- particularly from the Latino community says, this is so urgent. This is -- this has to be done now. Talk to me about the urgency of it from your personal experience. What is at stake here?

VILLARAIGOSA: As you said, L.A. is the epicenter of the undocumented population. We're 44 percent foreign-born. Not all of them, by the way, are from Mexico.

And a lot of what I have seen are families separated. You know, when somebody's deported, oftentimes, they have citizen children. Their children are here as dreamers. They have built a life here. They have a home here sometimes. They're working here. They're contributing to this great nation.

And when they're separated from their families like this, there's trauma that happens. When the kids are deported, many of them only speaking English and having to go to a country where they have to speak Spanish for the first time, this isn't an easy thing.

And so when you think about the fact that 1,000 people are deported every single day -- I think, last year, more than 400,000 people were deported -- we have got to do something about this. This is a crisis.

CROWLEY: Are -- are families being split apart in -- that necessitates this urgent move by the president to do something?

GONZALES: Clearly, there are examples of families being split apart, but it's not just about urgency. It's about doing the right thing.

We want to act quickly, as quickly as we can, but doing so in a way that's smart. From my perspective, long-term is better than short-term. I think all of us here sitting at this table support comprehensive immigration reform, a permanent solution by the Congress and not by the president alone, acting alone.

And I -- what I worry about is, this is going to antagonize Republicans if the president takes executive action. And, short-term, he will provide relief to however million -- however million people will be affected by his executive order, but, long-term, I think it's going to leave some families in a much more difficult situation.

BECERRA: Can I just say real quickly, I'm the son of immigrants. This is very close to me.

At the same time, I know valedictorians in high school who were being denied the opportunity to go to some of the best schools in the nation that they got accepted to simply because of their status. At the same time, I don't expect those 10 million or 11 million people who are here without documents to all qualify.

There are people who will not qualify because they can't prove that they want to do it for the right reason or they have done bad things. And so what we have to recognize is that, as much as this touches us personally, at the end of the day, we have got to do what's best for our country. And we got to get our economy going. We have got to make sure we have security at our borders. And we have to make sure that we keep families together where -- where they deserve that chance.

CROWLEY: Security at our borders is what I want to talk to you all about next, because all of you are from border states, so we're going to talk about that when we return.


CROWLEY: We are back with Congressman Xavier Becerra, plus Antonio Villaraigosa and Judge Alberto Gonzales.

So, border security. Who here thinks the border is secure enough?

GONZALES: Well, let me just say this, if I can just answer first.

In my first meeting, when I was attorney general, in Mexico, I met with my counterparts there. And their nightmare scenario was terrorists coming across the border and doing a 9/11-style attack. Now, 99 percent of the people that come across the border are not terrorists. They're not coming over -- they're coming over primarily to seek a better life.

But I do think it is legitimate in today's world to do what we can as a government to secure our borders. I think that is a perfectly legitimate...

CROWLEY: OK. Is it secure?

GONZALES: I don't believe it is secure today. I think we can do better. We are never going to have total security, but I think we can do better.

VILLARAIGOSA: You know, look, we're spending more to secure our border than we ever have. This president has deported more people than any president in U.S. history.

The fact of the matter, we spend more on that border than we ever have. Can we make it more secure? Maybe. But we have invested in border security. And now it's time to invest in a humane, comprehensive immigration policy.

And I think that's what the president is trying to do with executive action. This has been 18 months that they have discussed the issue since the Senate passed...

CROWLEY: But isn't that the question now, as it's been 18 months? Why act right this second? Why do it next week? Why not say to the president, listen, hold on, we will get something done by March? Why can't the president step back now, new guys in town?

Go ahead.

BECERRA: Yes, Candy, it hasn't been 18 months. The president's been in office for six years saying he's going to

do this. He waited for two years, when the House of Representatives, when it was under Democratic control, passed the DREAM Act. The Senate passed it, but, because of their use of the filibuster, 55 votes out of 100 didn't count, and so it didn't become law.

Two years later, Democrats were ready to push this again. Republicans, when we had our bipartisan discussions in the House on this, said, if the president comes out with a bill -- because the president right after the 2012 election said, I'm going to issue my own bill -- Republicans said, if the president issues his bill, the immigration reform is dead.

So, the president held back at the request of Republicans two years ago. For the last eight months...

CROWLEY: Also, Democrats, as I recall, asked him to hang on.

BECERRA: No, no. No, the -- the Republicans in the House were the ones that said, don't drop your bill, Mr. President. Don't introduce your bill.

Then, a year -- two years ago, the president finally said, look, I'm going to do something at least for the DREAMs. So, he did the deferred action program, which has been very successful, 700,000.

Nine months ago the president said, I'm going to take action. He's been saying this for nine months, not the last few weeks. And so he's now going to take action because it's clear Republicans have had a bill sitting at their desk in the House for a year and a half to do immigration reform.

VILLARAIGOSA: And all they could do is pass one.

If they passed a comprehensive immigration bill we wouldn't have executive action. And actually as Xavier said very well it's actually been before that since the Bush years when they were -- we were trying to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

CROWLEY: Right which makes the question, why tomorrow, why next Thursday?

GONZALES: Why the urgency? We now have a new congress -- new congressional leadership and I think that, I don't understand the urgency. The president could have done something - could have taken this action before the election. He made a political calculation not to do it, if it was so urgent he should have done it then (ph).

BECERRA: That's because if it were your child and you are going to be -- about to be separated from your child simply because Congress is dysfunctional, doesn't get its job done, then you would say my god, this is crazy, a citizen child being separated from his or her parent.

CROWLEY: But his point being then if it was that urgent and you were about to separate from your child -- VILLARAIGOSA: He should have done it before. I'm not going to

sit here and defend the president on that. He said he was going to do it. He should have done it then. He needs to do it now.

BECERRA: And he understands that. He was going to do that, he held back. Now, the Republicans are saying --


CROWLEY: For political reasons.

BECERRA: He held back and now Republicans say, pull back longer. And the president's saying, no, we need to move. We need to get things done. The people voted in November to have us to get things done.

GONZALES: I agree, we need to get things done but there's a right way and a wrong way to get things done and I think a preferable way clearly is through comprehensive reform. I think we all agree with that.

CROWLEY: Former attorney general -


BECERRA: Let's (INAUDIBLE) Republicans to get a vote on immigration reform.

CROWLEY: Antonio Villaraigosa, Congressman Xavier Becerra, thank you all so much for coming. We'll see what happens next week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for having us.


CROWLEY: Next up, Senator Al Franken is here for what he calls the free speech issue of our time. Other people call it net neutrality, but many people wonder why he and President Obama want to mess with something that isn't broken.


CROWLEY: Chances are pretty good you're not just watching this show right now, you're also looking at your laptop, your tablet or your smartphone, maybe you're even watching this program on one of those devices.

The internet has always been the wild west of communications, largely unregulated, and has created a lot of jobs, and a lot of profit for big and small businesses. So if it ain't, why fix it?


CROWLEY: Here now fresh off his reelection victory, Senator Al Franken.

Thanks for being here.

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: Oh, thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: Good to see you in studio.

You are a proponent of what's called net neutrality.


CROWLEY: Which, in its most simplified terms, is treating Internet content equally.


CROWLEY: No fast lanes, as they say...


CROWLEY: -- for the big Amazon or whoever...

FRANKEN: Whoever can afford it.

CROWLEY: Whoever can afford to pay for a fast lane...


CROWLEY: ...and broader width. And just a start-up, all treated the same.

FRANKEN: Exactly.

CROWLEY: What is it that is broken that...

FRANKEN: Nothing.

CROWLEY: So if nothing is broken, why is the government wanting to fix it?

FRANKEN: Well, what's broken is that the current FCC has suggested going to paid prioritization or fast lanes. So let's go back to what net neutrality is.

All content is treated neutrally. It travels, essentially, at the same speed, if you will, so that CNN's Web site, a blog from a blogger in Duluth, Minnesota travels at the same speed "The New York Times" travels, their Web site travels at the same speed.

That's the way it's been from the beginning. And we want to keep it that way.

CROWLEY: Right. If Netflix wants you not to have the little circles in your house when you're looking at Netflix, it could pay more and get on a -- in the fast lane, as it were?

FRANKEN: Yes. And let me tell you why this is a terrible, terrible, terrible idea to have a fast lane. I'll give you an example with YouTube. Before YouTube, there was

this thing called Google Video that Google had. And it wasn't very good. The guys who started YouTube, the three guys over a pizzeria in San Mateo, California. They created a superior product, YouTube. And it traveled at the same speed as Google Video and people liked YouTube better.

So YouTube won, because it was better. And a few years later, Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion. OK, so this was three guys above a pizzeria.

Facebook was started in a dorm room in -- at a college. We want -- that's the innovation that we have seen in -- on the Internet since the very beginning. It's always been -- net neutrality has always been there.

CROWLEY: So what about the argument that this now takes the Internet providers, the Comcasts, the AT&T, and gives them no real reason to innovate, that they will hold back on expanding the band?

FRANKEN: That's baloney.

CROWLEY: What about that argument?

FRANKEN: That's baloney. They want -- they -- they've been doing this all along. They've been doing this since the beginning of the Internet. This isn't going to stop this. All this stops them from doing is making a whole bunch of extra money. But this is not going to stop them from wiring the country.

CROWLEY: I want to -- this has obviously entered the political realm. We saw the president weighing in on it this past week. I wanted to read you something from an op-ed that Senator Ted Cruz wrote about the issue.


CROWLEY: "Net neutrality is Obamacare for the Internet. It would put the government in charge of determining Internet prices (ph), terms of service, and what types of products and services can be delivered, leading to fewer choices, fewer opportunities and higher prices. Government regulated utilities invariably destroy innovation and freedom."

Your reaction to that?

FRANKEN: He has it completely wrong and he just doesn't understand what this issue is.

We have had net neutrality the entire history of the Internet. So when he says this is the Obamacare, Obamacare was a government program that fixed something, that changed things.

This is about reclassifying something so it stays the same. This would keep things exactly the same that they've been.

And the pricing happens by the value of something.

CROWLEY: I can't let you go without talking a little bit about some politics. You won your reelection and lost a lot of colleagues on the Democratic side.

What's the message Democrats should walk away from (INAUDIBLE)?

FRANKEN: Well, I'm not -- I can tell you what I did in my race and maybe we can draw a lesson from that

You know, I got -- the first race I won by 312 votes. And there were, I think, a lot of Minnesotans who didn't quite know what to expect from me.

But what they saw is I worked every day in what I saw as the interests of Minnesotans. And I worked across party lines to find common ground. While I found common ground I stood my ground. When the powerful would come after the middle class or those aspiring to be in the middle. And I think we need to do that.

We need to make it clear that we're standing up for the middle class, which is being hollowed out, and -- and it's being -- and it's getting harder for those aspiring to be in the middle class in the middle class.

And they -- we have a fundamental difference on how we see the economy working best and who it should work for.

CROWLEY: And finally, if Hillary Clinton should be the only candidate in the Democratic field, should she get in, is that good for the Democratic Party? Or do you think Democrats really need some sort of spirited primary?

FRANKEN: You know, again, I'm not a -- you know, I'm not a political analyst. And I very much doubt that she'll be the only one. I'm sure someone will jump in.


CROWLEY: -- viable, as we sort of -- I mean, people now are talking, you know, about entitlement and, you know, that's not good and she seems to be the only one now that people are looking to.

And I'm wondering whether you think that's healthy or whether there ought to be sort of a larger debate.

FRANKEN: Well, I don't know how you'd make someone else viable. They have to make themselves viable.

But I think there's -- I'm sure that there will be a number of other people in the race.

CROWLEY: We'll wait and see. We'll have you back and see what you think of all of them.

Thank you so much for coming by. Appreciate it. FRANKEN: Oh, it has been a pleasure. Thank you, Candy.


CROWLEY: A footnote on net neutrality. The head of the FCC has not said if he'll take the president up on his recommendations but insiders believe he's looking for a compromise that will satisfy people like Al Franken and the internet providers.

Next up, just how damaging is that newly-found video of an Obamacare consultant admitting the law was fuzzed up to confuse voters. Our political roundtable is next.


CROWLEY: Open enrollment for Obamacare started yesterday without any of the major glitches that plagued last year's rollout. But newly surfaced comments from a man who helped write the laws giving Republicans fresh momentum to gut it.

Joining me around the table CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp, Democratic strategist, Penny Lee, L.Z. Granderson, who is also a CNN commentator, and Republican strategist, Mercedes Schlapp. Welcome all.

I want to just give you a little flavor of what Mr. Gruber had to say and in particular, he was talking about the, the Supreme Court system not a tax but charging people more for so-called Cadillac plans and here's what he had to say.


JONATHAN GRUBER, MIT AND NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH: It's a very clever, you know, basic exploitation of the - of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter.

The American voter is too stupid (ph) to understand the difference.


CROWLEY: He means the difference between a tax and - you know, we just didn't call it a tax because everyone believed it wasn't a tax.

So, my question is, does this alter the debate at all? We've got a new gang in town next January. They are looking at certain elements of Obamacare, if not the whole thing to get rid of (INAUDIBLE) just go it's a cynical attempt to throw something over -- wool over the eyes of the American people.

You know, as offensive and arrogant as his comments are, I actually don't think it changes anything.

S.E CUPP, CNN COMMENTATOR: For one, in all his arrogance he gets the story completely wrong. Obamacare didn't pass because of the stupid (ph) electorate. We never voted on it. It passed because Democrats controlled both Houses. It passed without a single Republican vote and it passed because the White House pushed it through without a lot of concern about how it was going to eventually work or whether the American people liked it.

And all of the sort of odious bits of the law that he thinks the administration so cleverly hid had been debated publicly ad nauseum for months and years after. So I don't think on substance it actually changes anything about the debate on Obamacare. It just is a pretty grotesque revelation coming from a guy who was paid a ton of money to help craft this bill, and now he's basically, you know, gloating about how it was sold to the American people, and incorrectly.

L.Z GRANDERSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: I will challenge -- I will challenge the idea that the American people didn't support this notion considering that they voted for a man who said, this is what I'm going to do once I get elected. And they voted for --


GRANDERSON: And they voted for a Congress -- and they voted for a Congress -


GRANDERSON: I'm speaking -- I'm speaking of 2007-2008. When he said from beginning to end, this is what I want to do. The American people rallied behind him, voted for him, and for the Congress to push it through.


CROWLEY: But he also said he was against the individual mandate. So, the general principle.

MERCEDES SCHLAPP, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I remember those town halls when -- you know, when you had the emotional debate and this is why we ended up winning so much in the House...


SCHLAPP: 2010. It was a referendum on the fact that the voters were against Obamacare.

GRANDERSON: They were against things like death panels and all the mischaracterization of what the Affordable Care Act was supposed to be.

SCHLAPP: Even today you can look at the A.P. poll that says 56 percent of Americans would -- have preferred that they would repeal Obamacare.

So, there is that -


GRANDERSON: But the White House --

PENNY LEE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: But then they also -- but then they also say but I still want to keep my --

SCHLAPP: They like the provision -- they like certain provisions.

CUPP: Yes.

LEE: You can't have it. You can't just cherry pick and say, oh, why can't everybody (ph) -


LEE: Because the way in which the law is now -- not only the law but in the way (INAUDIBLE) to be implemented you have to be able to increase the insurance pool which is allowed for pre-existing conditions. You then have to extend it so that those that are using the emergency care room as their primary care to be able to afford the insurance, to be able to expand it.

So, you can't just sit there and say, I want this cherry pick and that cherry. It's convenient for Republicans to do that because all they say is 50 times I'm going to vote to repeal. I have no other alternative solutions other than --


CUPP (ph): Apparently they're working on it (ph) --

CROWLEY: Let me just introduce a factoid if you consider polls factoids. This is from a Gallup poll.

This was among those who had been insured through the government exchange, so who are using Obamacare. Satisfied, 75 percent. Dissatisfied, 25 percent. So, which is roughly equal to people who are getting their health insurance elsewhere.

CUPP: Yes.

CROWLEY: So looking at that and when you look at next year and health care and what Republicans should do --

CUPP: That's good polling. Kaiser has done polling since the law passed, and it's never cracked above a 51 percent favorability, but there are bits that both Democrats and Republicans have sought to fix that are already popular among the American public and the good news is Harry Reid isn't there to block some of this legislation from coming to the senate --

SCHLAPP (ph): Such as?

CUPP: The medical device tax, repealing the employer mandate.

I mean, there are a lot of things that both sides can agree on that the public wants that should be getting a debate in Congress that Harry Reid was saying, we don't even want to look at that.

SCHLAPP: But S.E., don't you agree -- I mean, I think for the GOP they're in a tough spot. They don't have the 60 votes in the Senate. They really can't do very much.

So this is why the Gruber comments are so incredibly important. It gives them fresh ammunition to go there and have these hearings and have these investigations. Now, I pray...


SCHLAPP: ...that the GOP does not get stuck doing this for the next two years but the fact they're going to shed light to the flaws of the law and where they need to find improvement --

GRANDERSON: Where was this conversation -- where was all this investigation 10 years ago when Bush had his health care reform people with Medicaid (ph) -


GRANDERSON: No, no, no, no, no, no, no.


GRANDERSON: No. This is important -- this is important because some of the same voices who are now going after Affordable Care Act were the same voices that were silent when Bush lied to the American people about how much it was going to cost for schedule D for Medicare. Those are the same people who are now very upset at what (INAUDIBLE) about the Affordable Care Act who were completely silent --


GRANDERSON: Where was this conversation then?

CUPP: We could spend time doing the perp walk just for you of the former (INAUDIBLE) --


GRANDERSON: No, no, no, no. Not for me. You're saying -- you're saying that the American people are so upset about this.

CUPP: Why don't -- why don't -


GRANDERSON: Even when the Democrats -- even when the Democrats tried to introduce a bill to repeal that law the Republicans still fought that in 2007. So, let's not pretend that this isn't just partisan politics. This is -


CUPP: But this is the bill we have now.


GRANDERSON: We still have -- we still -


GRANDERSON: We still --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it's a massive overhaul of our --



GRANDERSON: We still are not able -- the government is still not able to negotiate a lower price when it comes to prescription drugs because of schedule D. So, that's not a thing of the past, that's a thing of the current and the present that the Republicans also can address but they don't. Explain to me why.

CUPP: There are still flaws with our health care system.


CROWLEY: Let me try to -- let me try to drag Penny into this.


CROWLEY: So, where are -- I mean, look, if you repeal the medical tax, which I agree Republicans and Democrats on the medical device tax are on the same page on that. How are you going to make up that money?


CROWLEY: And that is where the problem is (ph).

LEE: And that is exactly where the problem is.

So, it wasn't necessarily that Harry Reid was saying we absolutely don't want to have a debate about the medical device tax. There was not the solution on how we're going to pay for it and what it was going to be. And -- yes, were there things such as we're going to take the savings from paying (ph) -- from no longer having the Iraq war. Well, those savings have been spent 17 times over and over again. So there wasn't -- that was not a true debate of where we were going to come to.

So, what I was saying on the final point would be that, look, no law is constructed in its perfect.


LEE: Every law has had through its generations and through its -- Social Security has 75 different changes to it. Medicare has had many different changes to it. So, I would say, no Democrat is saying, this is be all end all. Or there are things -- or there are things that can be changed. And I think you will see a time in which --


CROWLEY: You've got 20 seconds, Mercedes. You're going to button this up for us.


SCHLAPP: I'm going to burst. I'm going to burst.

Well, you know, I think when you look at Gruber's comments for example on the Cadillac tax, he made it clear he's saying, this is the worst policy that we have seen and where are the unions and the employers going to come up with this $1 trillion that they're going to add to the national debt?

I mean, it has been very clear that, you know, we're looking at a cost of $1.4 trillion that Obamacare is going to cost. And those are serious issues that both parties are going to have to address. So, we're going to see where this is going to go but this is not going to end anytime soon.


CROWLEY: No. To be continued as we like to say.

Mercedes Schlapp, S.E. Cupp, L.Z. Granderson, Penny Lee, thank you all so much.


CROWLEY: We'll be right back.


CROWLEY: Thanks so much for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington.

FareedZakaria, "GPS," starts right now.