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CROWLEY: The president repeatedly chastises congress on the campaign trail for not working and not doing anything about jobs, et cetera. But I hear from Republicans publicly, some Democrats privately, that the president has not used the power of his office to push some of these ideas that he's out there talking about. Has there been too much politics on the White House end of this as well, Senator Warner?
WARNER: Well, I didn't get the memo that we were actually supposed to take presidential election years off. You know, if we look around at the rest of the world. CROWLEY: But has he?
WARNER: I think the president has laid out an agenda.
CROWLEY: Did he push for it?
WARNER: Well, I think he has pushed for it. I think there's been particularly in the House an almost knee-jerk reaction that anything the president could be for, they've got to be against. But even if you step back and say where can we find common ground, I mean the senate worked together, we passed a two-year highway bill that would put people to work, give a little predictability. We recently passed a bill bipartisan -- Senator Lugar and I, the overwhelming majority of the Senate, to try to speed approval process for the FDA, get our whole biofarmer sector of our economy jump started.
So there are things we can do even in an election year to get this economy going.
CROWLEY: Here's what I'm getting, Senator Lugar, is you hear Democrats privately, Republicans publicly, complaining that they don't hear from the president, that he has not used his bully pulpit to say to congress, listen here folks I need -- you know pick up the phone, I need you guys to really work on this. Have you seen more or less presidential influence in the Obama administration than previous administrations?
LUGAR: Well, in this particular year the president is campaigning for re-election, that's his total preoccupation. And he's been criticized for that by some Democrats who would say as a matter of fact you ought to be talking about how jobs are going to be created, how, in fact, you have more comprehensive view of the deficit, of the debt, of all of these sorts of things. This has not been something on the president's agenda except broadly.
Now I would agree with Mark that essentially members of congress still have tried to pick up in modest ways. We're working on a farm bill, for example, where we have a majority and we're hoping to get that to the floor. This is not the whole thing, but I would say simply there have been congressional initiatives quite apart from the president's.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you, and I don't mean to bring up a sore subject, but Richard Mourdock, who defeated you in the Republican primary, was on Fox News recently and talked about the idea of bipartisanship and here is what he said.
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RICHARD MOURDOCK, (R) INDIANA SENATE CANDIDATE: I have a mindset that says bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Now we are hearing that this election is going to solve things, that there will be a clear picture after this election of which way the country wants to go: the Republican way or the Democratic way. Does that sound like to you, do you believe that the election is going to decide something or are we fundamentally a divided country that can't seem to get congress to work?
WARNER: Well, respectfully, I think what Mr. Mourdock said is wacky. I think it's kind of the antithesis...
CROWLEY: Mr. Lugar might agree.
WARNER: ...of anything -- you know, don't know what constitution he wants to defend. I mean, the brilliance of the Founding Fathers were they set up a slightly dysfunctional government to start with, checks and balances, independent House, independent Senate, independent president. You have to work together to find that common ground. That's what Dick Lugar has been about, that's what a whole lot of senators in both parties have been about.
And the notion that this election is going to be so overwhelming for one side or the other that there will be a clear picture and one party is going to be able to rule the roost, I just don't see that happening. And with the rest of the world moving ahead, we've got to find that common ground on particularly I believe that debt and deficit issue. Nothing would do more to jump start our economy than to put that type of bipartisan plan in place to get this economy going.
CROWLEY: I want to ask you about the fiscal clip after we come back. But next up, it is about the crisis in Syria. Is the meter tipping away from military support?
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HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We consider all contingencies at all time.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have been focused on the need to bring about a political transition.
SUSAN RICE, US AMBASSADOR TO THE UN: There's still the potential for there to be a peaceful political resolution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: We are back with senators Richard Lugar of Indiana and Mark Warner of Virginia. So the notion that this election will, you know, suddenly make it all clear, which -- you know, which party the Americans support, I think we all have sort of said this, isn't going to happen.
So then what happens to this fiscal cliff? What happens to this $8 billion that will be taken out of the economy at the end of the year in tax increases and spending cuts? How is Congress going to deal with that? LUGAR: Well, essentially, the Congress leadership has decided not to deal with this until after the election, which I think is a mistake fundamentally. But let's say after the election very quickly we have the debt ceiling problem would appear. We have the sequester problem, the money for the armed forces, quite apart from the rest of it, simply taken away, plus all the end of the Bush tax cuts which means tax increases for every American.
Now you can say, well, all of that could be postponed until two months, three months, six months down the trail...
CROWLEY: Right. But Romney says if he's elected he'd rather the Congress postpone.
LUGAR: But that requires the Congress to come to that conclusion. On whatever the election is there is unlikely to be a 60- vote majority in the Senate, and unless you have a 60-vote majority and say my way or the highway, you're going to have to deal across the aisle.
So it would be better to be doing some of that now, picking up the Simpson-Bowles language or various other gang of six or 12 or so forth. I would hope that might occur. And I think the American people would be more relieved and their thoughts about the Congress certainly would be much better.
CROWLEY: I imagine you can agree with that. I want to move you on to Syria just because I know you have been on -- if you want to say something before that, feel free. But something that Mitt Romney said recently about the situation in Syria. The United States should work with partners to organize and arm Syrian opposition groups so they can defend themselves. Good idea, bad idea? Let's start with you.
WARNER: Well, I wanted to address the economic issue still. But that the idea that we're going to continue to punt this problem, which would be almost a European approach, we have watched this slow-motion train wreck take place in Europe because they have not stepped up.
I think there is the will in Congress to take the Simpson-Bowles, the gang of six, to phase in a $5 trillion over 10-year deficit reduction plan that will raise some revenues, reform our entitlement programs. We have to do it. There will be nothing that would do more to jump-start our economy and get the $2 trillion in private sector capital off the sidelines investing if we can make those permanent changes.
Now, in Syria, I just came back from Egypt and Israel, a very dangerous neighborhood at this point. I think we need to continue to ratchet up the pressure on Assad to get that regime out. I think it is different from Libya though because there's not the kind of unanimity at the United Nations or around the Arab League to have the kind of military intervention it seems that the president -- or Mr. Romney is calling for.
CROWLEY: Well, let me read you something. And this came from the Arab League secretary-general yesterday, who said: "More audacious steps are needed after the Houla massacre in order to end the bloodshed." So there is even some urgency now coming from the Arab League.
Does that help the U.S. make decisions about should we try to work with folks to get some arms into the Syrian opposition that's being brutally crushed?
LUGAR: It helps al of us, but I would say specifically we ought to work with the Turks to set up some zones in Turkey's territory guarded by Turks that Syrians can retreat to, so-called safe zones.
We ought to increase the sanctions on the government of Syria and the central bank sanctions as well as all others that people can cooperate in, to bring economic pressures, try to reinforce the diplomatic train (ph).
In other words, as opposed to dismissing Kofi Annan and the peace people, we ought to try to strengthen the hand so we get some talks going with the Syrian government.
The pressure would have to be increased, but I made two suggestions there as to how that might occur. There might be others.
CROWLEY: So there don't have to be military pressure of arming. And I know you were worried about the presence of al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
WARNER: Well, I'm worried about we don't really know who makes up the Syrian opposition, very different than the situation in Libya.
CROWLEY: The same could be said for Libya though. We didn't know who they were either.
WARNER: Well, we're now seeing some of the arms smuggling take place out of Libya into the Sinai, which affects our ally Israel. I think that we do need to ratchet up the pressure, I think economic sanctions. I think we need to continue to put the pressure on the Russians.
Let's face it, Syria is supported dramatically by the Russians and we need to move the Russians off of that support as well.
CROWLEY: Senator Lugar, I have got less than a minute and I have to ask you, what's next for Richard Lugar after a long distinguished Senate career? You are one of the president's favorite Republicans, which probably didn't help you in your primary race.
Would you consider, if the president is re-elected, a position in his administration, say, in diplomacy or foreign policy?
LUGAR: No, I think that my role is going to be outside of government. I look forward to opportunities but I'm not going to really think about it for three or four months because essentially I have got work to do for seven months.
We've been talking today about what we ought to be doing back and forth across the aisle in the Senate now to help Americans, the people that I want to serve. So that's where my preoccupation is going to be.
CROWLEY: Senator Lugar, Senator Warner, thank you both for coming in.
WARNER: We're going to lose a lot when we lose Dick Lugar.
CROWLEY: A lot of people have said that.
WARNER: He's the kind of guy we need to more of in the Senate.
LUGAR: Thank you.
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