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CBS "Face the Nation" - Transcript - Oklahoma Tornado and Investigating the War on Terror


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BOB SCHIEFFER: And joining us now from their home states, Oklahoma's Republican Senator Tom Coburn and New York Democrat Chuck Schumer. Senator Coburn to you first, so far so good according to Governor Fallin in Oklahoma this morning. She seems to think FEMA is doing what's necessary. There seems to be enough financial aid in the pipeline to take care of what's happened down there, as-- as horrific as it is. But I want to ask you about this whole way that this emergency aid is being handled. You had this huge fight over aid to the people that were hurt by Superstorm Sandy. You were one of those who were highly critical. You call the fifty-billion-dollar-aid package, "all you can eat buffet." Do you think we need to take another look at how we get this financial aid to these places that are in trouble?

SENATOR TOM COBURN (R-Oklahoma): I really do, Bob, you know, it disproportionately hurts the more populous states the way we do it. The economic damage indicator, the way it's calculated. So a large state like New Jersey or New York is disadvantaged under the system that we have today. And then we ought to have priorities about how we fund it instead of borrowing the money and that we ought to make sure the money is actually for the emergency at hand not for four or five years later and not allow bills to be actually loaded up with things that have nothing to do with the emergency at hand.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, what is it that needs to change?

SENATOR TOM COBURN: Well, the way we calculate damage. One, under the law it's only supposed to be when the local resources are overwhelmed. Oklahoma, I think, received over twenty-one different disaster declarations last year where, in fact, some of those we were overwhelmed, but the vast majority of them, we were not. So we've kind of translate-- transferred the responsibility for storms and damage to the federal government instead of to the state government. Oklahoma has done a great job. You know we have a rainy day fund. We took money from that for this. We've had a great response both through private money is being donated and then just the public as a whole pitching in, but we've created kind of a predicate that you don't have to be responsible for what goes on in your state and big storms like Sandy, or like this tornado, there're certain things that we can't do, that we need the federal government to do and--

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, Senator Schumer, what's your take on that? Because folks, your constituents, are still recovering from Sandy. Are they going to need more help? Are we going about this in the wrong way?

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D-New York): No, I think that Sandy did a very good job for New York. Obviously, it was an overwhelming storm that couldn't be handled by the localities or even by these two large states. And, you know, Bob, we've always had a tradition in America. When the hand of God strikes in a very serious way, the localities can't handle it by themselves and Americans band together and say we're going to help the afflicted area. So for generations New Yorkers have paid out to hurricane victims in Florida, tornado victims in the Oklahoma/Missouri/Alabama region to fire-damaged states in the West. And when Sandy hit it took a little while, some people were against it, but bottom line is America stood by us and we're using that money well and the recovery is well on its way. There is a place where we're disappointed. I'd warn Tom about this, although our scale of damage was greater. It's taking a little too long for the money to flow to the homeowners and to the small businesses. And we like that to be a little quicker. I think we're seeing light at the end of the tunnel, but it's taken a while. But as for the relief to government, as for the emergency repairs, as for building back our beaches, it's been very good.

BOB SCHIEFFER: I want to--while I have you here--shift to the President's speech. The President declared last week that "It's time for the war on terrorism to end." He said like all wars it has to end. Senator Coburn, do you think the war on terrorism is over? I don't think the President said it was over, but he said we have to start bringing it to an end. What was your reaction to his speech?

SENATOR TOM COBURN: Well, I see a big difference between the President saying a war is at an end and whether or not you've won the war. We can claim that it's at an end, but this war is going to continue and we have still tremendous threats out there that are building, not declining, building. And to not recognize that I think is dangerous for us in the long run and dangerous for the world.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Senator Schumer:

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: Yeah, I think no one can dispute how strong the President's been on this war on terror. What he's saying is there's a new phase. We've been largely successful at dealing with al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That's not over. There are new types of threats that we have to be vigilant about but he said under the-- under this long-term war on terror where small groups of individuals can hurt us we need some rules. We need some rules, we need some transparency so American citizens and the citizens of the world know we're not just going willy-nilly. I think under scrutiny what they've done will hold up very well but having transparency, having rules and engaging other activities other than military to help curb the war on terror--diplomacy, economic sanctions, and things like that is going to be useful as well. So I think the President did a very, very smart pivot realizing we're not going to let up on terrorists but at the same time we're going to meet the changes in the world.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Senator Coburn, the President also said that he's asked the attorney general to review all these investigations and to leaks of what he says is classified information and whether that's put a chilling effect on journalists trying to report the news. Do you think the attorney general is the right person to head up this review?

SENATOR TOM COBURN: Absolutely, not. You cannot investigate yourself and I think it's a total conflict of interest. First Amendment rights and the freedom of the press in this country and the intimidation that is going forward, it doesn't mean you shouldn't investigate it. And it shouldn't mean we shouldn't be tough on that. But allowing the very person that authorized the two things that we are very aware of today to investigate whether or not he did that appropriately is inappropriate.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just ask: do you think we need an independent counsel or something of that nature?

SENATOR TOM COBURN: Well, I certainly think we need to separate it from the authority of the attorney general since the decisions were made either by him or under him. And I don't think he can investigate himself and so, you know, I don't know what we're going to get back but the point is is there's an inherent conflict of interest in me judging whether or not I did something than reporting to the President.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Senator Schumer, what-- what do you think about that?

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: Well, the system is clearly broken. Look, we have two very serious interests here. We have the right of the government to protect certain information from becoming public. Often that's classified national security information; sometimes it falls into other ambits. At the same time we want a robust and full freedom of the press. And the only people who make the rules in this case are the government side. So what I've proposed along with Lindsey Graham and we'll be announcing that we have four Democrats and four Republicans and another Gang of Eight, I love these gangs of eight, I guess, is legislation that sets up rules where you have to go with-- if the government wants to go to a member of the press and say you have to divulge your sources in certain information, they first have to go to a judge. And that judge will impose a balancing test, which is more important, the government's desire to keep the information to find out who leaked the information or the robust freedom of the press. And if we can set up these rules, I think we'll avoid the morass. You always need set rules and an independent arbiter. We have neither now and I think our legislation which leader Reid has said he would put on the floor rather quickly could help break the problem that we've seen erupt from time to time in the past several years.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Senator Schumer, before I let you go I want to ask you about this New York mayor's race. Anthony Weiner who left the Congress in disgrace after he published some rather suggestive pictures of himself has announced that he is now running for mayor of New York City. Are you going to support him?

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: I'm not commenting on the mayor's race or on Anthony Wiener's race at this point, no.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think he ought not to run?

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: I'm not commenting, Bob.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Well I guess that's that. Thank you all very much for being with us this morning. We'll be back in a minute.


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