CBS "Face The Nation" - Transcript
MR. SCHIEFFER: Today on "Face The Nation," the looming battle over stem cell research, and the latest on Space Shuttle Discovery. Out in space the astronauts were up early and working, and talking to reporters today. We'll listen in. Then, we'll talk to the Deputy Space Shuttle Manager Wayne Hale. But we'll start today back on Earth where Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist surprised fellow Republicans when he broke with the president and said he wants to put all systems on go for stem cell research. We'll talk about it with Senator Arlen Specter, who is leading the fight to put government money into stem cell research, and Kansas Senator Sam Brownback who is against it. Can Specter find enough votes to overturn a promised presidential veto? Will Brownback try to block it with a filibuster? Just two of the questions we'll explore. Elizabeth Bumiller of The New York Times joins in the questioning, and I'll have a final word on why the administration ought to start paying attention to John McCain. But first, stem cells and the space program on "Face The Nation."
ANNOUNCER: "Face The Nation" with CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer. And now, from CBS News in Washington, Bob Schieffer.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Good morning again. Well, there's a rule in journalism, when you have two big stories, it's always best to start with the one closest to city hall. So, we start today on Earth and the big stem cell story. We'll talk about space in a little while.
With us from Philadelphia this morning, Senator Arlen Specter; from Colorado Springs, Senator Sam Brownback; Elizabeth Bumiller of the Times is with us in the Story this morning.
Senator Specter, let me ask you, first, this was a big boost for your side because you've been one of those who has been pushing to spend government money on stem cell research, in a real surprise the Republican Majority Leader said he is now for that. But the question, it seems to me, that's coming up next is, will you have the votes to overturn a presidential veto? My guess is, you've got the votes to pass this in the Senate, but do you have, what is it, the 67 you'd need to overcome a presidential veto? Do you have those here?
SEN. SPECTER: Bob, I think we're getting there. We've had in the high 50s for a while, and I think we crossed 60. And I believe that what Senator Frist had to say on this subject on Friday gives it a big boost. One Senator approached me shortly after the speech and said he was signing on. Two more Senators said that they were rethinking their position. I think we're on our way. When Senator Frist said what he did, it gave it a big boost in two dimensions, Bob. One is on the science, because he's so well-respected as a physician and researcher. And the second is on the politics. I think now that there are many Senators, and I think it will have an impact on the House as well, who can say, well, there's a little political cover. And I think it is also --
MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me just pin you down a little bit. Right now, where do you think you are? Do you think you've got -- how many votes short of 67 would you think you are right now?
SEN. SPECTER: Well, my analysis is that we have 62 votes at the present time, and we've got about 15 more people who are thinking it over. I believe that by the time the vote comes up, we'll have 67. I think our problem, Bob, is going to be to get it in the House.
MR. SCHIEFFER: All right. Let me go now to Senator Brownback. You do not think this is a good idea. You've been against it from the very beginning, Senator. If it came down to it, would you try to filibuster this to keep it from coming to a vote?
SEN. BROWNBACK: That's not my focus right now, Bob. What I'm focusing on is that we do not take the next step. The next step would be the creation of human life, young human life in the form of a clone, young human life in the form of just a fertilized egg, an embryo, just for the purposes of research. And that's what also the Majority Leader spoke about the other day, said we shouldn't create embryos for research. We shouldn't clone humans. That's what my focus is to stop.
MR. SCHIEFFER: So, you're going to let this go then? You're going to be for this?
SEN. BROWNBACK: No, I'm not going to be for this. This is a big step. This will be one of the first times, I believe the first time we've ever used taxpayer money to pay for the intentional destruction of human life. And that's what this does. But what I'm focused on is, let's get a package of votes together. Let's do this one, but then let's also take up the issue of human cloning, let's also take up the issue of the creation of embryos, just human embryos, just for the purpose of researching. Let's do all those together, let's vote on all of them, let's move the whole package and have this debate with the country.
MR. SCHIEFFER: This seems to be saying to me that you have sort of resigned yourself to the fact that this is going to pass, and you want to go to the step beyond this to make sure it doesn't go beyond this, is that fair to say?
SEN. SPECTER: I wouldn't say that I've ever resigned myself on this at all. You don't have the votes in the House of Representatives to overcome the president's veto, but we do need the bioethical debate. We need this debate in the country about the nature of human life, and that's what I've been offering as a package of six votes, up or down, the Senate on the whole range of issues, but particularly let's get at this issue of creating embryos for research purposes, and the creation of human clones just for the purposes of research. We shouldn't be doing that.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Elizabeth?
MS. BUMILLER: Senator Specter, what impact do you think Senator Frist's speech will have on his presidential chances in 2008?
SEN. SPECTER: Well, I believe it will be helpful to him. You have an enormous constituency out there, 110 million Americans directly or indirectly affected by Parkinson's, cancer, heart disease, et cetera. I think that Senator Frist's statement is a declaration that you don't have to agree with every segment of the Republican Party in order to be the Republican nominee. Republicans want to nominate somebody who can be reelected. And I think the way the matter is pending now, I don't think a presidential candidate opposed to stem cells could be elected.
If I may pick up on just two things quickly that Senator Brownback said, we are not creating embryos for research purposes. There are 400,000 of these embryos frozen that are going to be thrown away. If they could create life, I would never be for using research. And I've taken the lead and put up $2 million for embryo adoption.
MS. BUMILLER: If I could just ask Senator Brownback a question now. Senator Brownback, you've said once in a subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill, you likened embryonic stem cell research to Nazi experiments during World War II. Do you still believe that?
SEN. BROWNBACK: Well, the premise is what I was talking about. Taking human life, which the majority leader talked about this as being human life, which John Kerry campaigned on saying life begins at conception, so you're taking human life and you're experimenting on it. And that was a notion I was talking about, and I don't think that's a notion that most people are comfortable with doing.
And if I may respond to what Arlen was saying, what I'm talking about is the further creation of additional embryos for the specific purpose of research. We shouldn't be doing that, we shouldn't create an embryo that's a clone for the purpose of research. And so, that's what I'm focusing is, let's not take that additional step now to creating human life for the specific purpose just of research. That's not right.
MS. BUMILLER: Are you at all concerned that the Republican Party could be seen as anti-science on this issue?
SEN. BROWNBACK: I am concerned about that. But we are funding aggressively embryonic stem cell research. That's taking place. We're funding aggressively and finding human cures in the area of adult stem cell and cord blood research, where we've got 65 different human maladies being treated today in humans with adult or cord blood. We have zero on the embryonic stem cell, and we haven't even cured a mouse with embryonic stem cells to date. The scientific community is saying, that's decades away, if ever, that that would take place. I want people cured. We have a way to do it with the adult and cord blood stem cells.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about one thing that Senator Specter just said. He said he thought that this would help Senator Frist if he did get the Republican nomination to be elected. Do you think a Republican can get the nomination if he takes the position that Senator Frist did?
SEN. BROWNBACK: Bob, I don't know, and you're three years out, 2008, before that would take place. A lot of things are going to happen between now and then. I do know that it is a key issue within this party, and within the country, the sanctity and the beauty of human life, every human life. And so there's a great pause amongst the public, we all want cures, we all want scientific cures, but there's this great pause about the notion of taking that young human life for the purposes of research, particularly when we have a legitimate alternative.
MR. SCHIEFFER: I take your point.
Senator Specter, I want to ask you quickly, what about John Roberts to go to the Supreme Court, Democrats are demanding even more papers and information that were compiled when he was working at the White House, and later on. Do you think they ought to have that, and what do you think his chances are now being confirmed?
SEN. SPECTER: Well, on the two questions, I think we've already given them thousands of pages. I think there are ample documents available already to make an evaluation as to his political position. I would say right now, that Judge Roberts looks pretty good. I think the president disarmed his critics by nominating a man with such extraordinary qualifications. I think that it is important that the Senate do its job, I've reserved the final judgment until I go through the hearings and see what he has to say. I think we need to explore his judicial philosophy, see where he stands on precedents before we decide.
MS. BUMILLER: Could I just ask Senator Brownback a quick question?
Do you feel that Judge Roberts is socially conservative enough?
SEN. BROWNBACK: I'm still in the wait and see, trust but verify. I had an excellent meeting with him, he is enormously qualified intellectually and by training, and he's worked in a number of wonderful places. But, his paper trail is not long, and so I want to see how he answers the questions in committee before I could really answer that question.
MR. SCHIEFFER: All right. Gentlemen, I want to thank you both. We'll be back in a minute with the latest news from way out in space.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Earlier this morning the Space Shuttle Discovery astronauts talked with reporters back on Earth. One of them was Mark Strassman. Here's what they told him.
MR. STRASSMAN: How does the shuttle look, and does it seem clear to you at this point that Discovery will be able to come home safely?
MS. COLLINS: We've got a complete inspection up to this point of the tiles and the wings, and it looks like it's in pretty good shape. We have some small damage, but that's typical of a shuttle flight. But, I feel that at this point the tiles have been cleared and some time today or tomorrow, the wings -- the rest of the wings will be clear, and I feel that we'll be safe to come home.
MR. STRASSMAN: Are you concerned at all that budget pressure or schedule pressure had anything to do with not making the design change?
MR. PHILLIPS: I'm pretty much keeping my nose to the grindstone up here, and having faith in our management and faith in our crews. There is nothing that's happened so far that's shaken my faith in that. We obviously didn't expect that foam to come off. We're disappointed, and I don't know all the decisions that went into that, but I'm convinced that we will do the right thing, and we'll get it fixed before we fly again.
MR. STRASSMAN: Are you guys concerned that the American public may be losing confidence, patience in the program, and what has to happen to restore that?
MS. COLLINS: Everything that we have aboard the shuttle is working great right now. I must say that the shuttle is getting older and eventually we're going to need to replace it. But, I feel that the shuttle -- I chose to fly this mission, because I feel that the shuttle is safe to fly. We need to press on with the shuttle program until we finish the Space Station. Then we'll move onto the next exploration program, which is to go back to the Moon and onto Mars.
MR. SCHIEFFER: And there you have it, giving new meaning to a long-distance news conference. Joining us now back here on Earth at the Johnson Space Center in Houston the Deputy Space Shuttle Manager Wayne Hale, and our CBS News space analyst Bill Harwood, who will join in the questioning this morning.
Mr. Hale, thank you for coming. You heard what they said. Now it's my understanding that you've pretty much given the final go ahead to use this shuttle to bring the astronauts back to Earth, but you will formally make that decision tomorrow. Are you convinced that it's safe to bring these people home in that shuttle?
MR. HALE: We're beginning to feel very positive about the condition of the shuttle, but we won't be convinced until we finish the engineering analysis that we're going through today and tomorrow, and that will be reported out to the mission management team. The difference between what we were doing before the accident and what we're doing now is that night and day, because we are using the data, we have got the views, we are doing the engineering analysis based on real world testing and events in the wind tunnel that we have based our analysis on, to make sure that we positively know that it will be safe for them to return. Whereas, before we were just assuming it was good.
MR. SCHIEFFER: I understand that the backup position is, if it's not considered safe then you would leave them there on the Space Station and you'd actual send another shuttle to get them. But, let me go to the question that the mission commander alluded to in that recent interview. Basically, I think it's the question that a lot of people like me, who follow the shuttle program from time to time, have. Is this shuttle to the point where it's just getting old and worn out like an old car? No matter how good the maintenance is, and how much attention you give to it, the thing is just getting to the point where it ought to be retired. What do you say about that?
MR. HALE: I think that what we're looking for are advances in technology, rather than just the age of the vehicle.
When we designed the Space Shuttle it was designed for a life of 10 years. We've extended that through testing and improvements, but the thought was that in 10 years we would have new technology and we would build a new vehicle. It's clearly time for us to look at a new vehicle, and to move on to advanced technologies. Unfortunately, that takes time and commitment from the nation.
Now, we have the commitment, and in a few years I'm convinced we'll have a new and improved launch vehicle, and it will be time to retire what is currently our only way to get Americans into space on an American flagged vessel.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Bill Harwood?
MR. HARWOOD: You know, that really raises a good point. President Bush wants to do this Moon-Mars initiative and retire the shuttle fleet by 2010. It strikes me that there must be some urgency to fix this foam problem, because obviously if it drags out for more than a year or longer, you have to reach a point sooner or later where people might question whether it's worth proceeding, since you're going to retire the fleet anyway a few years later. How important is it to solve this problem quickly, and get the shuttle back in space?
MR. HALE: Well, it's important to solve the problem. And we have put together a team of folks that are going to go out and aggressively solve this problem, and I feel confident in a fairly short amount of time. But, the pledge here is that we will not fly until we have come to the root of the problem and have fixed it. This is a significant safety concern, and it would not be prudent to go fly another crew until we understood that.
MR. HARWOOD: You know, it strikes me though that you spend 2-1/2 years working on this foam problem, with the tank that caused the Columbia accident. Obviously, the foam that came off here wasn't something you addressed after Columbia. It's pretty much been that way for many, many years. You were part of the decision, obviously, that said it was okay to fly that way. What is it with foam? What is it that makes this so hard to figure out and fix?
MR. HALE: Foam is a very difficult material to work with, in terms of its structural integrity. Dr. Osheroff who was on the Columbia Accident Investigation Board had a very interesting discussion of that just a few days ago, that said again, reminded us, it's very difficult to work with foam. We need a lightweight insulation on the outside of the tank to keep the ice from forming, which is would, because of the very cold fuel that we have inside, put it out on a Florida day you're going to get condensation and ice to form on the outside. You have to have a lightweight insulation and the understanding of foam and how it works just does not -- in terms of the mechanical properties, as opposed to the thermal insulating properties, is not as well understood as we'd like. We looked very hard --
MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. Hale -- go ahead, I'm sorry. Finish your answer.
MR. HALE: Okay. I was just going to say, we looked very hard at this particular piece of foam. We did not ignore it. We took x-rays of it, we looked at it with fancy radar, if you want to think of it in that terms, we did not see anything that caused us any grounds for concern. Clearly, we missed something. We need to go back and understand better what happened here.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. Hale, let me ask you, what exactly is the shuttle's mission now? Some critics of the program, as you well know, are beginning to say, does it really have a mission? We know it has to resupply the Space Station, but beyond that, why are we flying shuttle flights?
MR. HALE: Well, there are really two reasons. There's a technical operational reason, and there's a more philosophical reason if I can give you both. The technical reason is that the large parts of the Space Station that are not yet in orbit were designed to be sent into space by the Space Shuttle, and to redesign them in ways to go on an expendable rocket, or a smaller rocket, just are not practical. So if we intend to finish and complete what we have committed to our international partners we will do, the International Space Station, it has to be done, certainly the large pieces, with the Space Shuttle. So that is what we're doing. We're completing the International Space Station to its full research capability, as we have committed with our international partners to do. That's job one.
The philosophical reason is that we need to have an American presence in space. If we are going to go on to explore Mars, to go back to the Moon and move on out into the solar system, it is very important to have a continuation of American capability to launch people into space, and we have that with the Space Shuttle, and only with the Space Shuttle today. Until we get that next vehicle online, it's important to keep the Space Shuttle flying as safely as we can.
MR. SCHIEFFER: I want to ask you just from personal standpoint, because I know you are one of those who finally signs off on whether it's safe to fly this space vehicle or not. When you learned about this debris that came off the shuttle, what was it like for you personally?
MR. HALE: I have to admit, personally I'm extremely disappointed. We believed that we had done everything practical and reasonable to do to prevent foam loss. Clearly, we made a mistake. It was not for lack of looking or giving it such a cursory thought that we didn't spend the time to evaluate it, but we made a mistake in our evaluation. And I'm deeply disappointed in myself, and the rest of the team that we missed this. But, we are going to go back and find what caused the loss of this large piece of foam, and we will fix it, and we're committed to do that.
MR. SCHIEFFER: We really dodged a bullet this time, didn't we?
MR. HALE: It is a fact that the piece missed the shuttle. The shuttle, the orbiter is in good condition. The small, very small little things that we've been looking at on the heat shield are basically inconsequential. And if this piece had of come off in a different place, at a different time, when there was more aerodynamic transport mechanism, we could have had a very bad outcome, yes.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. Hale, thank you so much for joining us this morning, and the best of luck to you. We all wish you the very best on this one.
I'll be back with a final word in just a second.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Finally today, I don't always agree with him, but when John McCain talks about prisoners of war and torture I do pay attention. As someone who was tortured for five years in a North Vietnamese prison he just knows a little bit more about torture than the rest of us. So when John McCain told me the other day that he would not want to be the next American taken prisoner in Iraq I listened. McCain, along with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, is sponsoring legislation to outlaw "cruel, inhumane, and degrading," treatment of all prisoners held by the United States. Incredibly, the administration is trying to kill this legislation, claiming it would hamper the fight against terrorism or some such.
Here is my question, does that mean we endorse torture? Of course not, but what will the other side make of those words. John McCain has no more sympathy for the terrorists than I do. He is worried about our soldiers. He knows that if the enemy believes we are torturing their people, they will be more likely to torture our people. John McCain has never been a favorite of this administration, but they should pay attention to him on this one. He was learning about torture while some of them were still in graduate school. The gallant young men and women we are asking to fight this war are already paying a terrible price. Let's not make it even more dangerous for them. Listen to John McCain.
That's it for us, we'll see you next week right here on "Face The Nation."