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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript

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CROWLEY: Joining us now, two members of the House of Representatives leadership, Democrat James Clyburn of South Carolina and Republican Mike Pence of Indiana.

Congressman Clyburn, let me begin with you. Blistering editorial in The New York Times today, accusing the president of not showing enough leadership on the oil spill. We also have Maureen Dowd, another friendly, sort of Obama person, taking him to ask. What is the president doing wrong here that's bringing critiques not just from conservatives, but from his base, basically?

CLYBURN: Well, I don't know that the president is doing anything wrong. I think that the president's style is something that a lot of people feel very comfortable with during the campaign. They were looking for a steady hand, they were looking for someone who was intellectually capable of understanding all the nuances of various issues.

But when it came time for governing, people like to see a little more emotional involvement on the part of their leaders. So I think...

CROWLEY: But if I could just ask you, sir, just because -- The New York Times editorial wasn't talking about he needs to emote more, they were talking about leadership. And there's not a lot of nuance to oil coming up from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. What they question is, he has not taken hold of this and shown leadership. You don't agree with that assessment?

CLYBURN: No, I don't. I really believe that when you have so many entities involved in this, then it becomes a problem of trying to get everybody on to the same page and focus on to a process that seems sometimes to be contradictory if you go from one agency to another.

If this were only one or two agencies involved in this process, that would be one thing. But there must be 12, 14, almost 20 entities involved, and so managing that gets clumsy sometimes. But I do believe that the president is much more hands-on at this point than he was at the beginning.

I don't think any of us knew the real extent of the spill, because we were getting information from BP that now we find out was not quite true, in fact, was far from the truth.

CROWLEY: Let me bring Congressman Pence into this. I remember in Katrina, some of the first complaints about the president was when the administration said, we didn't know it was this bad. and it wasn't really a fairly good excuse for a lot of people, because it was fairly obvious.

How do you judge how the administration has been doing? And does it fit -- I mean, I'm going to anticipate you thinking he hasn't done as well as Congressman Clyburn thinks.

PENCE: Well, yes, I think -- I respect Jim's opinion on this, but this is not a matter of the president's style. It's not a matter of public relations. This administration did not send cabinet-level officials to the region until 10 days after the explosion occurred.

It would be two weeks after the explosion occurred that we began to hear from members of Congress from the region that you literally had fishermen standing on docks, you had parish presidents who were waiting for BP to give them permission to go out and deploy boom to protect their wetlands and their coastline.

Then we began to hear from Governor Bobby Jindal about a delay in permitting for the construction of barrier islands. I think what has become clear to people at every end of the political spectrum, and now even on the editorial pages of The New York Times is that this administration was slow to respond and continues to fail...

CROWLEY: But have they done better?

PENCE: Well, continues to fail to provide the kind of energetic leadership that the American people expect, and, Candy, that the law demands. Under the Oil Pollution Act that was adopted after the Exxon Valdez disaster, it says the president of the United States shall develop a plan to contain the discharge. I mean, I read this morning in the news... CROWLEY: But, Congressman, he has -- in fact, he has been down there. He has been looking over it. He put Thad Allen down there, and said, here's my point guy. He can't plug the leak. He can't clean up the oil. He tells his people to go do it. Why isn't that sufficient?

PENCE: Well, but he could have picked up the phone and called the CEO of BP sooner than 50 days. I'm glad he is meeting with the chairman of BP next week. But I think the fact that he never spoke to the CEO of British Petroleum for the first 50 days of this incident is emblematic of the kind of detached style of leadership that we're seeing here.

PENCE: Look -- and this business about the president looking for somebody's A-double-S to kick this week -- you know, as the New York Times this morning, I think -- I think everybody in America knew on day two whose A-double-S ought to be kicked.

The reality is that BP is responsible to plug that oil; BP is financially responsible to contain the impacts of the discharge on the coast and on the economy. But that's our coastline, and the president should be marshaling every resource of this country, every resource available around the world to spare our coastline and to spare the families in the region -- the extent of the impact of this spill.

CROWLEY: Congressman Clyburn, CNN is reporting now that the president, in his Wednesday meeting with BP executives that Congressman Pence just referred to, will say that he wants an escrow fund. He wants BP to fund it. He wants that to be ruled, if you will, or run by a third party that will decide who gets what -- what sort of compensation for what damage.

Does that sound like a good idea?

Because there had been a movement on Capitol Hill, a lot of people saying, look, BP should stop paying dividends to its stockholders and start giving money to some of these people who have been damaged.

Is this a way around that, and a good idea?

CLYBURN: I think this is a good idea, but I think both those ideas are worth us exploring. The fact of the matter is, I do not believe that BP can continue to pay big stock dividends, can continue to get these -- pay for these full-page ads, running a public relations campaign while so many families, so many communities are being ruined.

I think the focus must be on developing and putting resources into these communities and on to these families and on to these working men and women, in whatever way we can do that, by an independent third-party agency or by the federal government working in tandem with BP Whatever way is what we ought to do.

That's where the focus ought to be. I don't think that BP has sufficiently put the focus on these communities and on what's happening to the occupations of those working men and women whose families are going to be ruined as a result of this.

CROWLEY: Congressman Clyburn, Congressman Pence, let me ask you to just stick with me for a minute. I want to take a quick break.

There are questions that surround an unknown, surprising win in South Carolina, and a leading Republican voice is calling for a truce on social issues. We turn to politics with Congressman Clyburn and Pence, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: We are back with Congressman Clyburn and Pence.

Congressman Pence, the president has written a letter to the leadership in the House and Senate, saying he wants $50 billion in emergency funds to stave off state layoffs, teachers, policemen, firemen.

Rahm Emanuel did an interview with the Washington Post in which he said the following in response to "But what about the deficit?"

"While some people say you have to spend and some people say you have to cut, the president wants to talk about both cuts and investing."

How do you interpret that?

PENCE: Well, I interpret that -- this is an administration that is -- that is groping for some economic policy. I mean, the truth is that the president likes to talk about the failed economic policies of the past. The truth is, the economic policies of this administration and this Congress are the failed economic policies of the present.

I mean, we were -- unemployment was at 7.5 percent when they passed their so-called stimulus bill, borrowed $1 trillion from future generations. It's at 9.9 percent nationally today.

What the American people know is that we can't borrow and spend and bail our way back to a growing economy. We need fiscal discipline in Washington, D.C. We need to abandon this spending approach to stimulus, adding to deficits and debt, and we need to provide immediate across-the-board tax relief for working families, small businesses, and family farms.

We need a new approach. The economic policies of this administration and this Congress are failing to put America back to work.

CROWLEY: Congressman Clyburn, I suspect you have heard the "We need to cut taxes" argument before from the Republicans. But you also are looking at a difficult election year, in which one of the primary concerns of the American people is the economy, and inside that concern, the growing deficit. People just, sort of, innately know that we're spending too much money.

Yet, there is talk of this $50 billion in emergency funds and talk of a second stimulus. Can the United States afford that kind of money to try to stimulate more jobs and try to get the economy moving a little faster? CLYBURN: Well, Candy, I do not think the American people can afford not to. The fact of the matter is, I think that, if you look at 300,000 teachers being laid off, that's not just 300,000 people losing their jobs; that is putting America's students, their children, at tremendous risk. So we have to take into account exactly what the situation is that we're faced with.

Congressman Pence keeps talking about the fact that we are failing in our approach. We all know exactly what this president inherited. And we will stop talking about that inheritance when Congressman Pence and others stop talking about taking us back to those failed policies.

We're trying to correct some things that we had absolutely nothing to do with, and the American people know that. And I would wish that all of us would get on board with some bipartisan approaches to trying to get our economy stabilized, trying to get our children educated, trying to get working men and women back to -- on their jobs and look for the future -- look to the future with a little more compassion and bipartisanship.

CROWLEY: And, Congressman, I think nobody disagrees with you on the goals. I think one of the questions that's cropping up now is, when does the statute of limitations run out...

(LAUGHTER)

... on blaming the Bush administration, and when is it on you all, as the governing, really, in the House and the Senate, and in the White House -- when does the economy become your baby, so to speak?

CLYBURN: The economy is our baby. But let's stop talking about cutting taxes, cutting taxes, cutting taxes. That simplistic approach to trying to get this economy moving again is what got us in this position in the first place.

(CROSSTALK)

CLYBURN: We just had an across-the-board cut on 95 percent of working men and women. They got an across-the-board tax cut. We all know that.

CROWLEY: Let me get Congressman Pence in here, just a little bit, Congressman.

PENCE: What also got us into that problem was a doubling of the national debt under the last Republican administration, was a Wall Street bailout, that now they're trying to make permanent in the financial services bill.

PENCE: We're talking about breaking from the runaway federal spending that characterized this administration and the last administration and say it's time for fiscal discipline in Washington, D.C. Let's reject the deficits and the debt and the bailouts. And let's add to that the kind of fast-acting, across-the-board tax relief, Jim, that John F. Kennedy did back in the 1960s, that we did in the the early part of the Bush administration, the Reagan administration. It's always what works to get the economy moving again.

CROWLEY: Before we go back to the '60s, I don't think we're going to settle this tax cut argument. But, Congressman, I need to turn you to something a little more local. And that is your nominee for the U.S. Senate, Alvin Greene, came out of nowhere. You think he's a Republican plant. He is calling now for the Democratic establishment to get behind him. That he, in fact, has been elected to be the nominee. Do you foresee yourself getting behind Mr. Greene?

CLYBURN: No, I don't see myself getting behind Mr. Greene. The fact of the matter is, of course, Candy, I never said he was a Republican plant. I said he was someone's plant. And it turned up after the elections, we found out, as I said earlier, something untoward was going on.

Now all of a sudden, we see that Congressman Joe Wilson -- his campaign manager, was, in fact, managing the campaign of my primary opponent. I saw the patterns in this. I know a Democratic pattern, I know a Republican pattern, and I saw in the Democratic primary elephant dung all over the place.

And so I knew something was wrong in that primary. And this result tells us that. People intentionally circumvented the law, the rules and regulations, did not file any disclosures, did not file any of their campaign finances, yet they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars running this campaign and broke every law.

CROWLEY: I want to get one quick question in. And we'll leave it at elephant dung,which is certainly the most colorful explanation I've had of politics before. I want to ask you about something that Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana, you know him well, said recently about the next presidential race. "The next president, whoever he is, will have to call a truce on the so-called social issues. We're going to just have to agree to get along far little while until the economic issues are resolved." Do we need to stop paying -- not paying attention, but concentrating on abortion, you know, school prayer, any number of things that have been hot-button issues for Republicans?

PENCE: Well, first, let me say, I haven't spoken to Governor Daniels about what he meant. And I think Mitch Daniels is the best governor in the United States of America. He has done a fantastic job for the people of Indiana. But it's also...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Do you think abortion needs to be put on the back burner?

PENCE: Well, it's also true, Barack Obama is the most pro- abortion president in American history. This administration has worked to expand public funding for abortion at home and abroad since the first day Barack Obama took office. And I believe with all my heart that Republicans need to continue to fight for the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage with everything we've got in 2010 and in 2012.

CROWLEY: So I'm going to take that as a slight disagreement with you and the governor of Indiana. Thank you so much for being here, Congressman Pence, Congressman Clyburn, I appreciate you both.

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