CROWLEY: Good morning. Three dozen Americans working for the United Nations are trapped in the troubled South Sudan. Evacuation efforts failed Saturday when gunmen fired on three U.S. military aircraft and wounded four service members. We have new developments in just the last few minutes. I want to bring in CNN’s Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. We should first say, Barbara, that as far as we know, those four service people are in stable condition. So let me move you on to what’s happening in efforts to kind of rescue those folks still in the Sudan.
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Candy. Well, at this hour, CNN has learned the U.S. military is working on an option to go back in to this very dangerous area and try once again to evacuate 20 to 30 Americans after the failed attempt yesterday when their aircraft were fired on.
This is an option that they are working on after yesterday’s events. It’s likely to require briefing President Obama before the troops go back in. There basically two options on the table right now. Either you send the U.S. military back in to get them, or you have the United Nations use its helicopters to bring the Americans out. The good news is there have been a number of U.N. helicopter flights in recent hours evacuating other aid workers. They have made it out safely. But I think it’s fair to say the military would like another chance to do this. U.S. Special Forces don’t take kindly to being fired on, and they want to get the job done.
CROWLEY: This has been called an evacuation, not a rescue. How much immediate danger are these Americans in?
STARR: Just think about what happened yesterday. Three aircraft fired upon. The pilots have to fly 500 miles back to the nearest landing strip. They have bullets in their fuselage. They have wounded troops onboard. Very dangerous. Candy.
CROWLEY: Barbara Starr, thank you so much.
He has bucked his party as many times as he’s backed it, and in the process made friends on both sides of the aisle. Earlier I spoke with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.
CROWLEY: I want to start out with the NSA, because it made news this week, at least a panel reviewing what it did. What do you make of the advisory panel recommendations?
MANCHIN: The things we need to do in this country, which is our responsibility, especially as elected officials and the government as a whole, is how do we protect the privacies of each and every American? But also protect the security of our country? There’s a fine balance there.
So I’m open to listen to all the recommendations that has come out to see if we can improve upon that, without infringing on my rights and my freedoms and my privacy.
But also I’ve got to give a little bit, as I understand. I remember the days I used to walk onto an airplane without any scrutiny, without any security whatsoever. Those days have passed. But you know what? I still fly.
CROWLEY: My main question here is, do you think that the program — the metadata program that is getting the most — a collection of what appears to be most of if not all of the phone calls made here in the U.S.? And it tells you like where it was placed, who placed it, how long it ran, where the phone call went to — is that over the line as far as you’re concerned?
MANCHIN: Well, that, I mean, you know, we have always heard as a child growing up and as we have different phases of our life that big brother is watching you. And now we found out that big brother is truly watching you.
CROWLEY: We had a U.S. district court judge opinion earlier in the week in which he wrote about this metadata collection. “I have serious doubts about the efficacy of the metadata collection program as a means of conducting time-sensitive investigations in cases involving imminent threats of terrorism.” Then we get the report out over the next couple of days, and they said, “our review suggests that the information contributed to terrorist investigations by the use of Section 215 telephony metadata was not essential to preventing attacks and could readily have been obtained in a timely manner using other, more conventional methods.” It just sort of sounds to me like they don’t really need it, and yet it’s the most intrusive thing.
MANCHIN: Right. And I think that what we’ll do is with that panel’s recommendation is be able to double down and look and see, what is needed, what is necessity? What is safety? What are we willing to give up? And what is unnecessary for us to give up just for someone to have information? I think we’re getting to that point now, and I think you’re going to find backing off some, making some changes that is going to keep us secure and safe, but also not intrude the way we have been.
CROWLEY: I want to turn you now to Obamacare. Do you have any concerns at all that this system — I’m not talking about the computer and the glitches or the meltdowns or whatever you want to call it, next year when this goes into force, are you worried that there will be a meltdown of the system, that it will just skyrocket everybody’s premiums? That it won’t deliver the care it’s promised?
MANCHIN: My concern was this. When you have a country the size of the United States of America that spends more than any other nation on earth per capita — I think we’re $8,600 for every man, woman and child on health care — and that’s double almost or close — I think Finland might be the closest.
With that being said, and ranked 43rd in the world in wellness, something’s wrong. We have got to do better. Is this the right thing? Probably not. Is it a step moving it? Yes, we’re moving the ball for it.
I’ve only asked for one thing. I said listen, I’m not worried about the glitches, computer glitches. We’ll fix that sooner or later. I’m worried about having the product that the market will buy. And we’re not letting people shop. So with that being said, myself and Mark Kirk introduced a bill. The only bipartisan bill that says why don’t we wait basically before we put any crimes or fines until January 1, 2015.
This whole 2014 will be a transitional year. To find out where our glitches are and our little nuances that we have to work for, and find out if the market can produce the products that we need to keep this and us healthy. That’s what it’s all about.
CROWLEY: Do you think at the end of the day, we will look at this system when the administration tells us like who signed up and who hasn’t signed up, that it’s going to give the insurance companies what they need to make this work?
MANCHIN: Well, here’s at the end of the day, if it’s so much more expensive than what we anticipated and that the coverage is not as good as what we’ve had, you’ve got a complete meltdown at that time. So this transitional year gives you a chance to adjust the products to the market. And to see if the market will absorb and buy the product. You can’t tell someone give me all your vitals and I’ll let you shop a couple of–
CROWLEY: In other words, they have to go on and say here’s all this information about me. And then you have to buy something?
MANCHIN: Well, are they willing to basically come to the realization this is all America is willing to pay and this is what they’re wanting for what they pay, and are they getting the best product? Don’t say this is what you got to buy, whether you like it or not, and you’re going to pay more even though you didn’t think you were? I think that’s where we are. So I’d like to say, can you move the ball forward? Can I get more people insured? Can I get more people healthier? Do I have to have people — are they in jeopardy of one catastrophic illness into bankruptcy? Can we not agree as Democrats and Republicans, those are worthy goals to get rid of, and move to a healthier populace for a healthy workforce?
CROWLEY: Otherwise, do you think this thing falls of its own weight?
MANCHIN: It falls of its own weight if basically the cost becomes more than we can absorb, absolutely.
CROWLEY: Let me turn you to gun control. Do you think there’s any chance — we’re going into an election year, as you know — that there can be major form of gun control legislation before the end of next year?
MANCHIN: Candy, as you know, this has been a challenging year. And you would think after the one year since we’ve — the Newtown, horrific tragedy that happened there, but the bottom line is I think me and Pat Toomey basically looked at this, coming from gun states, gun culture states, gun owners ourselves, who really will do all we can to protect the Second Amendment, that every law-abiding gun owner will protect.
With that being said, the people that basically are law-abiding gun owners and understand gun culture, they weren’t offended by saying if you go to a commercial transaction, that it makes sense to go ahead and find out is that person that wants to buy your gun a criminal?
What we found out is that people just didn’t trust government, that they were going to stop there. So they said hey Joe, we’re OK with the bill. We like the bill. The bill is not bad at all. We can live with that. But we just don’t trust —
CROWLEY: Don’t know what is going to come afterwards.
MANCHIN: We just don’t trust government stopping and doing what we say we’re going to do.
CROWLEY: Do you think that anything will get passed next year?
MANCHIN: I’m hopeful. CROWLEY: I know you are. But what do you think will happen?
MANCHIN: Right now, you know the makeup of the Senate. We have 55 Democrats. I think all 55 would consider that. I know we had a few that did not. But hopefully they’ll maybe reconsider. I don’t know their position. I’m not going to force anybody and make anybody uncomfortable. They all know they have to live with themselves and go back home and explain it. So it’s going to be difficult to get the extra votes that we need. I’ll be honest with you.
CROWLEY: Harry Reid, the majority leader in your party, said recently he does want to run for re-election in 2016, and he does want to remain majority leader. How do you think he’s done? Grade him for me.
MANCHIN: Harry is a nice person. He’s been very cordial to me. We disagree on many things, as you know. But we do it in respectful way. I think everybody has to look and see what results and what successes you have had and where you think you are and could have done better and can improve upon that and make decisions if you still have a good fight in you. I respect that. And I think he’ll make those decisions.
CROWLEY: How do you think he’s done, though? When you look at his leadership style and where he’s taken the Senate?
MANCHIN: Well, I, you know, we all have different styles. I would like to see more of an engaging from him and the majority leader from that standpoint and put differences aside, put our politics aside.
CROWLEY: You mean McConnell?
MANCHIN: Minority leader, Senator McConnell. And sometimes if that doesn’t work, you follow (inaudible). If it’s not jelling, you have got to kind of question why, and who, and see if you can make amends and make it better.
I just — I would always pray that Harry will continue to reach out, no matter how much he thinks he’s been gored, if you will. And I think he will, and try to make amends, and try to move forward for the sake of our country and the sake of the Senate.
CROWLEY: When I talk to Democrats, they tend to say — to criticize the president for his lack of reaching out to Senate members, to House members. What you would say your relationship is like with him?
MANCHIN: I would say that mine is probably like the majority of senators and especially Democrats up there. Everybody has a different style, again, as we’ve said. And that’s just not in the president’s nature, to pal around, and, you know, the gregarious type of personality that a Bill Clinton. Two different people.
CROWLEY: Does it hurt the country’s business?
MANCHIN: Well, it makes it more difficult. You know, it’s hard to say no to a friend. When you build that relationship and that friendship, you’re looking for ways to try to work things out and find a compromise, and that friendship means an awful lot. When you don’t build those personal relationships, it’s pretty easy for a person to say, well, let me think about it, you know, and not really make — go that extra effort. So everybody has a different style.
My — I just — I love to be around people. I love to talk to people. I want to find out if we disagree, what do we agree on? I know what we disagree on. And if we agree on something, is that strong enough to build something off it? How do we move further? And I have always looked at it, it’s not about Democrat or Republican. Being a Democrat in West Virginia, I took an oath as governor to serve all the people, not just the Democrats or those who voted for me. Everybody.
CROWLEY: As you know, not a lot of that happens on Capitol Hill.
MANCHIN: I know. And I keep trying. I keep saying, if I can bring a little West Virginia common sense and let them see how we do things, maybe it will help.
CROWLEY: When you look at this honestly and when you look at the legislative agenda, whether it’s gun control, whether it’s mental health, when you look at immigration reform and the other things, climate change is another thing that the president has pushed, realistically speaking, what is going to happen next year?
MANCHIN: I would ask the president to evaluate what his legacy would be and what he would want it to be.
CROWLEY: Well, it’s pretty much Obamacare, is it not?
MANCHIN: Well, I would like for the last three years to get our financial house in order. To really take it upon and him to grab this and say, listen, no matter what we talk about, no matter what our personal agenda may be — and he has a very robust agenda — none of it will happen unless you can afford to pay for it. And that bothers me right now, because we have not as a nation taken the debt of this nation and the financial condition of this country as serious as we should. And there’s going to be a crash sooner or later. And I don’t want to hit the wall if I can avoid it. And that’s what I keep saying.
All of these things are noble causes. He and I differ on his whole energy or lack what I consider lack of an energy. But I want to work in the most productive manner. I think you have to have an all- in energy policy. Use all the resources. Education is challenging. How are we going to have the workforce to compete in the 21st century when other countries are out-educating us?
CROWLEY: I know you want a big grand bargain, but you know how long people wanted a big grand bargain. It seems impossible in this atmosphere. You overlay an election year. It makes it even harder. Minimum wage, do you think that might pass next year? An increase?
MANCHIN: I would think if they look basically at the disparity that we have in this country and how far we’re getting apart, something has to be changed. And if — and I think the strongest argument, I think the wage was $1.60 in 1968, Candy, minimum wage. If it had been adjusted by inflation, no politics at all, we would be at over $10, well over $10.
But with that being said, I think that there are so many people now, because we lost so many of the good jobs. Doesn’t that tell you, you need to change your tax laws, especially the corporate laws that allows corporations to domicile offshore, not pay taxes, take jobs offshore, but use our — use this consumer market to sell in? Things need to change.
CROWLEY: Realistically speaking, try to take your Democrat hat off here and see — just being an analyst for a moment. Do you think that Obamacare will be a major factor in determining the success of Democrats in 2014?
MANCHIN: It’s weighing heavy on that. I’m very close to our Democrats who are up right now. And even the Republicans who are my friends. They’re using that. They think that’s a great advantage they have. The Democrats right now are feeling the weight of it. And it needs to turn around. We need to show we’re moving in a healthy, well more — well — situation within our society. If it doesn’t happen, if it becomes such a burden, if the small businesses have a burden, if now we have the large employers kicking in and their plans are changing, and you know, all of our working unions are having some challenges, if all that doesn’t come together — and that’s why I keep saying that’s why we need that transitional year. Sit down and work through it. Don’t force it.
CROWLEY: If that does not happen in the way you sort of envision that or outline it for us, do you think that the Democrats will lose the Senate?
MANCHIN: I’m not going to say that I think we will lose it. It’s going to be extremely challenging. We have some very good people who are truly there, I believe, for the right reason. They’re going to be challenged for the wrong reason.
CROWLEY: Senator Joe Manchin, thank you so much for joining us.
MANCHIN: Thank you for having me, Candy.
CROWLEY: When we return, if you’re still looking for a last- minute gift for that political junkie in your life, we’ve got the perfect solution.
CROWLEY: Joining me around the table, Dan Balz, chief correspondent at The Washington Post and author of “Collision 2012.” Mark Leibovich, chief national correspondent at The New York Times and author of visits of “This Town.”
Mark Halperin, senior political analyst and TIME magazine co- author of “Double Down: Gamechange 2012” and author of “Breakout,” Newt Gingrich.
Gentlemen, we invited you on because we thought when people were looking for last minute Christmas gifts you have got a political junky in the house, go for it. Get all four. That’s right, it’s a four pack. That’s right, ask them to give you a deal.
I wanted to start off, because all the post mortems have begun. The president had his own post-mortem Friday.
I want to play you something that he said in answer to the question has this been the worst year of his presidency. And here is part of what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: What I’ve been focused on each and every day is are we moving the ball in helping the American people, families, have more opportunity, have a little more security to feel as if they work hard they can get ahead?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Look at the year ahead for President Obama. He said it had to be a good year, had to get things done. Is that going to happen? Can he climb out of this hole?
DAN BALZ, WASHINGTON POST: It’s going to be difficult. He has perhaps one thing going for him, which is that the economy is getting better. And if people feel a lot better about the economy, they may feel better about the president. But he still got to solve the health care problem. He has still got to find a way to get more things done in congress. And we don’t know whether he’s got a strategy to do that.
CROWLEY: Here are the poll numbers for right now in December, “how is the president handling his job?” 41 percent approve, 56 percent disapprove.
But I want to show you the trajectory over the course of the year, that’s something that started out at 55 percent in January, now 41 percent.
MARK HALPERIN, TIME MAGAZINE: Well, mostly health care, but also Washington hasn’t been working well. Remember, also this year we had a lot of dysfunction. The president is in charge of Washington.
You know right then — I both write about the election, the last election. 2011 was a pretty bad year for the president, too. Now they call it the good old days in the White House. But that was a bad year.
I mean, his decision at the end of 2011 was to basically say I’m going to beat up the Republican Party and I’m going beat up Mitt Romney. I’m going to get elected, the fever will break and we can work together.
I think he faces a real choice, one of the big dilemmas for next year for the president is does he try win the midterms basically by beating up the Republicans, or does he risk alienating people in his party by going for some big deals. And of course he must fix health care in 2014 without a doubt.
How much — your book, sort of a probably dropped the tourism into Washington for some time, just because — you know, because it is a town with peculiar habits. It can be a — it’s the insiders versus everybody else.
How much of the president’s problems that we’re talking about now is due to the way this town works?
MARK LEIBOVICH, NEW YORK TIMES: I think obviously, I mean, Washington has a very, very, very powerful, you know, way to influence people and to change cultures. And it’s much easier to talk in a campaign structure about changing and being hopeful than it is in reality.
I think, you know, if you were to distill his political issues, it’s obviously with Republicans on The Hill right now. And there has been really — I mean, except for this very (inaudible) thing, I mean, very little common ground and very little to work with.
CROWLEY: So, is there any way to beat this system?
GINGRICH: Oh, sure. Look, first of all, presidents can and do recover. Ronald Reagan…
CROWLEY: Can this one?
GINGRICH: Well, sure. Of course he can. I mean, any president, somebody once said it’s like a pitcher who is at 3-2. But the pitcher knows what he’s going to throw. So he always has a slight net advantage.
President of the United States did what he just did. You take up over an hour of time. You’re in charge. You look presidential.
What he needs to do is go to Hawaii and stop and just let the last few years bubble up in his head and try to figure out three or four big things, not small things: how is he going to fix Obamacare? I mean, who is going to really be the czar who has real power and fixes it?
I he is or is he not going to reach out to the Republicans and actually try to achieve legislative things? And what are the two or three large visionary goals around which the nation, not just Democrats, but the nation could rally so he could have a states of the union that has real meaning?
Now, if he can solve those three, he’s back in the game by February.
CROWLEY: And it’s a huge if, because we saw a challenge in that news conference.
Now, we kind of knew it was coming. It was the are you going to negotiate over the debt ceiling? No.
And so you already see the setup for an election year that is starting out pretty much how this year started out with the added overlay.
BALZ: Well, I mean, what the speaker said is important. But you go back two years, he had bounced back in the polls after the shellacking lacking in 2010 by early 2011. And then it went south again.
I think the question for him — they know how to work the first 60 days of the year. The question is do they know how to work the rest of the year.
CROWLEY: Is the man people saw in the campaign the same guy who is at the press conference Friday?
HALPERIN: I think personally he’s the same person. I think politically he’s — and in a positive way. I think politically he’s the same person in a way that I think has held him back, which is he is still very opaque. Is he a flaming liberal as critics on the right say? Is he someone who is more of a post partisan problem solver?
And I think the speaker’s list of what the president needs to do is so good, I think he should consider working in the White House for him, because the biggest thing to me is he needs big national goals, not something Democratic goals, but some big nationals.
Clearly the country has a lot of needs right now. And I think he’s got to find what are things that people across the country, regardless of party, 60 percent, 70 percent agree with.
CROWLEY: But as you sort of implied in your first answer, at some level that will put him at odds with his own party. If you go for the let’s, you know, gather around these goals when his party wants to be hitting the Republicans.
LEIBOVICH: Yeah, I think so but I also think that especially in an election year coming up, he laid the groundwork a little bit in the press conference — I mean, immigration might be the one issue he seems to be moving towards. If not, even if there is not a great– and I think there is a national consensus to some degree, certainly in Washington. I mean, this something Republicans have shown their willing to talk about, if not willing to deal with. And I think that that could be a huge opportunity for him.
CROWLEY: Mr. Speaker, I’m going to come to you first when we come out of this. But when we return, our question, can a president with the approval rating of only 41 percent of the public keep 51 percent of the Senate?
GINGRICH: Well, look, I think the Democrats have been tactically brilliant for two elections in a row at figuring out the one or two races they have to win to upset everybody’s expectations.
This is a brilliant strategic move. I mean — they are a very good party tactically. And they understand exactly what they have to do next year to keep the Senate. They’re going to one state at a time — Mary Landrieu is now going to become chair of the natural resources committee.
So this is a twofer, they increasing their chances of Montana, they increase their chances in Louisiana.
You’ll see six more things like this.
So one of the reasons the president in the end is going to take a dive and accept an Iranian sanctions bill is he has too many Democrats who have to help pass a bill like that if they’re going to run for reelection.
CROWLEY: Do you agree with that?
LEIBOVICH: The tactical strength of the Democrats, as Speaker Gingrich points out, means I think they keep the Senate unless there is a national wave. If there is a national wave, probably based on if people are still unhappy with Obamacare, I think all the tactics in the world will be overwhelmed and they will lose the Senate or come pretty close to it.
BALZ: I don’t disagree with that. I mean, I think obviously the Republicans have an opportunity. And because there are so many red states that the Democrats have to defend, they have a very good opportunity.
But in the end the Republicans have to beat a series of incumbents. These are not open seats and that’s going to be the challenge.
CROWLEY: Right. And Mark, I want to switch you really quickly. Before I turn to 2016, because you wrote an article in — it’s the cover story actually of The New York Times magazine today on John McCain.
So my question to you is how would you describe John McCain 2013?
HALPERIN: John McCain 2013 is, I mean, in a sense the story was about the whole of his life and the collection of cliches that has grown up around him.
Once again John McCain is another crowded hour, as he would say, which is that he considers himself right in the middle of the battle for the soul of the Republican Party, certainly in the senate against the Ted Cruzes and Mike Lees, but also, you know, as a very, very vocal critic on the administration on foreign policy, especially, you know, he seems like he is — he has — as much as he has ever injured by 2008, I think he clearly was, he’s sort of back in a new phase. I think he’s deciding whether to run for reelection again. And I think as usual he is pretty fun to watch.
CROWLEY: Republicans don’t have someone that’s kind of the head of the Republican Party and won’t until they have a nominee. Does John McCain or Mitt Romney factor into the elections or is it a free for all?
GINGRICH: Look, I think it’s a free for all. My personal bias is we’ll nominate a governor, because I think they just have huge advantages. And they’re actually doing something, not just talking.
But I don’t think we’ll have a nominee until sometime probably around April. And I think we’ll coalesce very rapidly at that point.
And I think we’ll have a pretty good story to tell, because I do think the president has some huge — for all their tactical brilliance, the Democrats have huge strategic structural problems. And you see it now, for example, with people under 24 where he is just losing ground every week, because they’re looking at reality and thinking this ain’t very good.
This isn’t — people hire presidents in the end to make things work. And if they have to make things work, then their party takes a beating, because in the end their party goes down with them.
CROWLEY: Let me go around the table here for our last question. And that is for the three of you, who you have you already kind of started to take notes because you think you might be following them? Your top two folks that you’ll be following into Iowa and into New Hampshire on the Republican and the Democratic side? And you can just say who is going to be on your show the most?
HALPERIN: Well, obviously Governor Christie from New Jersey. I think he’s on everybody’s list. And after that, I think you’ve got a smorgasbord of people that we all have to pay attention to. I don’t think there is any one other — nobody has defined that space so effectively in 2013 that you have to say this is the one or these are the two people. There are a handful of people that we’ve got to pay attention to.
CROWLEY: There’s — I just think Ted Cruz will be interesting.
BALZ: Ted Cruz is interesting, will be interesting. And I do think that the party will coalesce pretty early around a Christie type person on maybe in the associated with the establishment.
I also think that the right will probably crystallize again up around one or two whether it is Cruz or Marco Rubio or Scott Walker or whoever. I mean, I guess who knows.
LEIBOVICH: I have lots of interest people. My big four are Governor Christie, Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan and Mike Huckabee. I think those are the four most likely nominees today.
Factoring in the fact that half of them or more may not run.
CROWLEY: Jeb Bush has always been interesting to me, because he’s — it’s just hard to figure whether he’s got the fire for it.
GINGRICH: Whether he thinks it’s practical. He is a pretty practical guy.
Look, I would add to that John Kasich if he wins reelection in Ohio. I would add Scott Walker who clearly wants to run as a national base, but has a tough reelection. And I may surprise you guys, I’d add Rick Perry. Perry is a dramatically better politician than his performance in ’12. He is serious about this. I have almost no doubt he wants to run. He’s not going back to Iowa for fun. And I think he will be — you can imagine a Perry-Christie fight that will be a very interesting choice for the Republican Party.
CROWLEY: So back this way. Do we just say Hillary Clinton and be done with it on the Democratic side?
GINGRICH: I said Hillary Clinton in 2007 and I was totally wrong. I clung to Hillary all the way into April. I felt like an idiot towards the end trying to explain why I thought Hillary…
HALPERIN: And you’re still there?
GINGRICH: I want to go back. I’m not going to back off. I think Hillary is the almost — if she runs, she is the inevitable nominee.
HALPERIN: I agree. If she — I’m not actually sure she is going to run. I think she look at and decide she doesn’t want to spend the rest of her professional life doing this one thing.
CROWLEY: And losing perhaps.
BALZ: I think — I mean I think if she runs, she is clearly the front-runner. I also think that there is some early sort of pre- fatigue setting in already,. It is like this headache factor where if she starts behaving politically, I think there is an immediate danger that an anti-establishment candidate can come in and do what Obama did four years ago.
CROWLEY: There is probably some question as to whether she hasn’t started already, but go ahead.
LEIBOVICH: Well, I think everybody thinks she has started and she has to say no at this point for people to believe otherwise.
But she is, you know, she begins this cycle in even better shape than she began the cycle in which she lost.
CROWLEY: Thank you all so much.
All right. Last minute Christmas shoppers. “Collision 2012,” Dan Balz, “This Town,” Mark Leibovich, “Double Down” Mark Halperin and Newt Gingrich “Breakout.”
I have solved your Christmas problems.
Thank you all so much.
When we return, the Millennials in congress say it’s time for a new approach to getting things done on Capitol Hill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We’re not willing to sit around and wait for another 20 or 30 years to be in a position of seniority and to actually be able to do things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: There are some members of Congress who don’t want to spend decades on Capitol Hill before getting some say in getting something done. Earlier I talked with the leaders of the future caucus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Joining me now Republican Congressman Aaron Schock of Illinois and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. Thank you both so much. From the millennial caucus. So first can we describe millennials as 80s and 90s born? Is that how you —
SCHOCK: Late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.
CROWLEY: Take some 70’s —
GABBARD: Depends who you ask.
CROWLEY: OK. So younger than the current power structure, let’s say, in most of it in D.C. and your purpose is to take on millennial issues?
SCHOCK: It’s real to change the focus in Washington, D.C., from the here and now three months, six months battles that we seem to too often get involved in. And really focus on what are the longer term challenges that we need to tackle? When I got elected to Congress five years ago, I was one of four under the age of 40 of the 435. In January of this year, we had 40 members of Congress under the age of 40, 20 Republicans and 20 Democrats. And it was from that that Tulsi and I formed a friendship when she got elected to Congress and recognized that a lot of the younger members are much less I had ideologically strident. They are much more ambitious by nature because they got here at a young age and they’re much more impatient about solving America’s problems.
CROWLEY: Even as your numbers were getting bigger, what we’re really seeing in the total picture is much more partisanship, much more bickering.
GABBARD: Really what we have found just from getting to know each other was a commonality from a generational perspective on how we can get results. Recognizing that the partisanship is at its highest now. Members who have been here for 20, 30, 40 years saying this has never been as bad before as it is now. And seeing between as we talk to each other, what can we do about this? We’re not willing to sit around and wait for another 20 or 30 years to be in a position of seniority and to actually be able to deal with it. But to find out how do we kind of create the pressure points both from within as well as engaging people from industry and the private sector and the community and students and so on and so forth to be able to start to try to move forward on issues that are more long ranging in their impact than the way things have been done.
CROWLEY: Why do you bring to the table anything different than what we’ve seen now?
SCHOCK: Here’s why. Because right now our leadership on both sides of the aisle, both chambers, are a bit challenged at being leaders. Because they’re so concerned about their ideological basis. Both Democrat and Republican leaders right now are worried about being right flanked and left flanked out by their respective basis. So they’re afraid to be what the title says which is a leader. I believe that if Tulsi and I can bring together 20, 30, 40 members of Congress behind an initiative, it provides the cover to allow a John Boehner, a Nancy Pelosi, a Harry Reid to actually become leaders, to be able to stick their necks out and embrace it.
CROWLEY: Well in large part, leaders become leaders because they have the most people in their party elected. So that’s what drives this. You cannot be in the leadership position unless your party has the most people in the Senate or in the House.
GABBARD: The politics are always going to be there. I mean that’s a fact and the reality of the system that we have as well as the fact that we have different ideologies and our parties represent the diversity across the country. But we’re trying to accomplish is to grow — provide a platform and to grow a community of people who are building a relationship based on trust, based on respect and understanding. We may have different approaches on how to tackle some of these very challenging issues that we haven’t dealt with yet as a country and building those relationships and putting these things forward so that others can gather around them.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you about millennials in general. Why is it that you think we are seeing signs that younger people, for instance, are not signing up for the Affordable Care Act which could doom it?
GABBARD: We’ve heard people talk about the young invincibles. And I think it’s just a matter of where people are in their lives to say OK, you know I’m healthy now. And maybe I don’t need as much of a health care plan as other people. But I think when you look across the board at some of the challenges that we have, that deal with the Affordable Care Act but also deal with a whole slew of other issues and how people are disengaged with the process now, it comes from a lack of trust and a very, very clear cynicism and frustration with government as a whole.
SCHOCK: With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, there’s a provision called community rating which means that no longer are young people paying for their liability to the system. They’re paying for their liability of the system plus a portion of their father or grandfather’s cost to the system which means that by virtue of the ACA young people’s health insurance are now disproportioning more expensive than they were before. So if you think about a young people didn’t want to buy insurance before, because they don’t think they needed it, now it’s more expensive than it was before. And the penalty of noncompliance is very, very inexpensive, $100. So, you know, no matter the sales pitch, no matter what rock star you get involved, it’s going to be hard to convince young people to part with more and more of their money.
CROWLEY: I imagine if I had this discussion with Harry Reid and John Boehner when they were in their 20s, 30s that they would have said the same thing.
SCHOCK: You’re not looking at the next John Boehner or Harry Reid.
Let me say this though. The deal that was struck between Paul Ryan and Patty Murray could never have been trotted out by John Boehner or Harry Reid if first those two budget chairman had not agreed and the budget conferees not agreed. What I mean by that had there not already been a coalition, a group of people already embracing that field, if John Boehner would have done that on his own or Harry Reid would have done that on their own, it never would have passed. And it requires sometimes the rank and file or folks further down the leadership ladder to bring forward thoughtful ideas and build the momentum before we ultimately get the leaders to embrace it and change to happen.
CROWLEY: Congressman Aaron Shock, Tulsi Gabbard, of the Congressional Future Caucus. Thank you both so much.
GABBARD: Thank you very much.
SCHOCK: Happy New Year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: A prominent critic of Vladimir Putin is free after years in prison and speaking out to our Christiane Amanpour. Her exclusive interview with him on STATE OF THE UNION, that’s next.
CROWLEY: An outspoken critic of Russia’s president Vladimir Putin is free after a decade in prison. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oil tycoon and once the richest man in Russia was convicted of tax evasion and fraud. He sat down with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour for an exclusive interview.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Candy, we’ve been sitting here at a very up market West Berlin hotel. It is a long way from Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s last known address which was Penal Colony number seven on Russia’s northwest frontier. He spoke about he’s delighted being free, his regret at the huge, huge sacrifices family had to give, the fact that he will not go back to Russia as long as a financial claim hangs over his head even though he’s been pardoned and granted clemency. He said he has not admitted guilt. He’s not going into politics. But he wants to help build Russian society. We spoke about what it was like to be free, what it was like to be in prison and how Russia and the world have changed in those ten years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: What was prison like? That’s what I want to understand first. What was it like living in prison? What kind of food? What were fellow inmates like?
MIKHAIL KHODORKOVSKY, FORMER KREMLIN CRITIC (through translator): Big barracks where there could be 50 or 100 people in one room. Nothing good.
AMANPOUR: Were you worried? Was there — in many prisons around the world there is violence between inmates or violence from the warders to the inmates. You were stabbed with a knife?
KHODORKOVSKY: I was stabbed with a knife once. When I was stabbed with a knife, I was lucky. It just — he tried to get to my eye but got my nose. As a result, the dentist who was there was someone who was also a plastic surgeon and also — carried out an operation on me which means it was virtually not noticeable.
AMANPOUR: Was there a deal for your release? Did President Putin or his people say on this condition we will release you? Were there any conditions laid?
KHODORKOVSKY: It rather was the reverse. Mr. Putin on a number of times publicly said that he was ready to consider the question of my pardoning. But I had to say that I was guilty for that. That was an absolutely unacceptable condition for me.
AMANPOUR: So you have not admitted any guilt?
KHODORKOVSKY: The achievement this time was that Mr. Putin did not make any conditions that I had to accept any guilt.
AMANPOUR: Do you forgive Vladimir Putin?
KHODORKOVSKY: I would say it in a slightly different way. I don’t consider this to be rational behavior and something which I do not consider to be rational is something that I can live with.
AMANPOUR: Will you go into politics? What is your plan for the future?
KHODORKOVSKY: I cannot say I have exactly decided on my plans now. But what I have certainly decided for myself is that I do not want to be a symbol that Russia does not remain a political prison – a political prisoner. I want to be a symbol of the efforts of society, can lead to freedom of political prisoners.
AMANPOUR: We’re talking about your family now. That was a huge sacrifice. Ten years you didn’t see your family grow up. What are your feelings, your reflections on how this cost your family so dearly?
KHODORKOVSKY: That is my huge debt which I cannot give back.
AMANPOUR: It’s very emotional. Mr. Khodorkovsky, thank you for joining me.
KHODORKOVSKY: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Throughout all of these years, Mikhail Khodorkovsky has gone from oligarch to liberal martyr of political opposition. He was Russia’s most famous political prisoner. Even though he’s out now, he says he will not go into formal politics. He wants to help build Russian civil society as you heard. This case is being closely watched by the United States and many are saying that Vladimir Putin released him at this time because he wants to clean up Russia’s image ahead of the winter Olympics in Sochi but equally many are saying that Vladimir Putin felt confident enough at home and on the world stage to release the man who had after all been his arch political rival at this time. Candy?
CROWLEY: Thanks, Christiane and thank you for watching STATE OF THE UNION.