(CBS News) — Guests included Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Kirsten Gillibrand, Mike Morell, David Ignatius, Ben Domenech, Molly Ball, and Ed O’Keefe.
JOHN DICKERSON, CBS HOST: Today on FACE THE NATION: With the election one year from today, one Republican front-runner basks in the spotlight. The other feels the heat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They’re great.
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DICKERSON: Donald Trump spent last night hamming it up on “Saturday Night Live.” We will talk to him this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”)
TRUMP (singing): You used to call me on the cell phone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: Trump is clearly not losing any sleep over the challenge to his front-runner status.
And now it’s Ben Carson’s turn to feel the pressure of being at the top of the polls.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is a desperation on behalf of some to try to find a way to tarnish me, because they have been looking through everything. They have been talking to everybody I have ever known, everybody I have ever seen. There’s got to be a scandal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: We will ask him about the controversy surrounding his campaign.
New York Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand will also be with us.
And, as the likelihood grows that it was a bomb that brought down that Russian jetliner in Egypt last week, we will talk about what that could mean for the war on terror.
Plus, we will have analysis on all the news. It’s all ahead on FACE THE NATION.
Good morning. And welcome to FACE THE NATION. I’m John Dickerson.
We’re joined now by Donald Trump on the phone fresh off his appearance on “Saturday Night Live.”
Mr. Trump, I want to start with some of these stories about Ben Carson, your rival in the Republican race. You suggested these stories about his autobiography are important. Why are they important?
TRUMP: Well, first of all, I hope it works out well for Ben.
I am not looking to see anything bad happen to him. I have gotten to know him and like him. But he’s — they’re tough stories. I guess he wrote a book some time prior to thinking he was going to be politician. And we all have done that, perhaps.
And pretty tough things come out. When you are talking about hitting your mother over the head with a hammer — and I’m sure you never said that. And I never said that or thought that. And hitting a friend in the face with a lock, with a padlock, and stabbing somebody, and, you know, lots of — and saying you have psycho — when you have pathological disease, which he said.
And now the whole thing comes out about West Point, where he was talking about scholarships at West Point. And, you know, I have been — I know a lot about West Point. West Point doesn’t do the scholarship thing.
So, a lot of — a lot of questions are being raised. And the pyramid situation is a little bit different, because, frankly, if you know anything about the pyramids, you know they are pretty solid structures. They don’t have — they didn’t have steel, where they would span it and they would create a big vacuum underneath. Those are solid structures.
So, you’re talking about storing grain in the pyramids. Well, they have very little space. They have space for small rooms, where the pharaohs had their coffins and where the pharaohs were buried, essentially.
So, a lot of — a lot of things are going on. And I don’t know. I just don’t know what to think. I hope it — I hope it works out fine for Ben. I just don’t know what to think.
DICKERSON: Well, working out fine for him would mean beating you, so I can’t imagine you hope it works out that well for him.
TRUMP: Well, not that fine. No, no, not that fine. That’s too fine.
TRUMP: But, other than — other than that, I hope it works out fine. You’re right.
DICKERSON: But let me ask you, he, of course, has responses to all of those questions that have been brought up.
And aren’t they all really quite secondary, though, to his story, which is, he grew up in poverty, became a famous neurosurgeon? This other stuff is kind of pretty much on the side, isn’t it?
For somebody who has also had some issues with the press, why not be on Ben Carson’s side here about stories that really don’t go to the heart of this job you’re trying to get?
TRUMP: Well, I think when you say that you stabbed someone, and was saved by a belt buckle — and that’s pretty unlikely, because a belt buckle will turn. You know, a belt buckle is not going to stop a knife. The built buckle itself will turn.
And when you say you hit your mother over the head with a hammer, or tried to, those are pretty — and when you write in book that you have pathological disease, pathological disease is not cured. And, you know, you had dinner with Westmoreland — now, I hear Westmoreland may not have been in the area where the dinner took place at that time, according to his schedule.
So, I don’t know about that. And maybe it’s right and maybe it’s wrong, but those are pretty tough charges. And they were written by him himself. The pathological stuff was written. That’s very serious, pathological disease.
So, I just don’t know what to think.
DICKERSON: Let me ask…
TRUMP: All I can say is, I hope it works out for him. I don’t know what to think about it.
DICKERSON: Let me ask you about the polls on the Republican side. You are in the pole position on the next debate, FOX News.
DICKERSON: That means you’re number one in those polls. But — and you’re ahead in a lot of the — a lot of the states, but Ben Carson is…
TRUMP: All of the states.
DICKERSON: … definitely gaining on you. I think, in Iowa, there might be some — he might be ahead in some polls. But, clearly, in the other states, you are well ahead.
But give us your sense, as a student of the polls that you are, about Carson’s threat to your candidacy. How real is it? And what do you make of his rise in the polls and his gaining on you?
TRUMP: Well, I think everybody is real. I mean, you have a lot of people. They have a lot of talented people that are running, people — some of the people, I like. I like Ben. But some of the people that I like very much — and I think everybody is a threat. And I have never done this before.
I have built a great company. I have made a lot of money. I want to put that thinking for the people of the United States. And we — you know, we’re just being ripped off by everybody. We’re being ripped off by every single country that we deal with. We’re being ripped off in purchase of military equipment.
I look at the kind of prices that we’re pay — paying. It’s absolutely ridiculous. We can get better equipment for less money, I mean, so many different things. And — but I view everybody as a very good competitor, even the people that are much lower in the polls than myself or than Ben or anybody else. So, everybody is a competitor.
DICKERSON: I want to ask you a question about your tax plan.
And we will play clip from “Saturday Night Live” last night. And then I want to ask you coming out of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”)
TRUMP: Jimmy, how is the economy?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Amazing, sir. In the words of our new national anthem, it’s huge.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: After your tough negotiations with China, you are killing them on trade. They’re now borrowing money from us. I have no idea how you did it, sir.
TRUMP: Well, you know what? I don’t have to get specific. With me, it’s just — works. you know, it’s magic. It’s just magic. It’s always been that way my whole life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: So, you were kidding there.
But when you announced your tax plan in September, you said that phase two would be some specifics about what you would cut in order to make the numbers add up.
When are those — when are we going to see those specifics about the tremendous cuts that you said you’re going to make?
TRUMP: Yes, you will be seeing them soon.
And it’s a very easy thing to do, because you look at the fat and the waste and the fraud and the abuse that we have, it’s incredible. And the other thing I’m going to be doing is bringing back jobs. I’m going to bringing back great numbers of jobs from China, from Japan, from India, from Brazil, from so many countries that have been just absolutely stealing our jobs.
And, John, it’s going on to a level that you have never seen before. We now have corporate inversions, where companies are moving out of the United States. And they will be moving out in big numbers if we don’t do something quickly. And my plan stops all of that. And it will stop it.
And you have to be smart to stop it. It used to be when people would leave New York for Florida because of taxes or leave New Jersey for Texas or something. Now they leave the United States for Ireland and Europe and different — and Asia, where they get better deals.
DICKERSON: So, you want to close the loopholes for tax havens? Is that…
TRUMP: And I want to bring back trillions of dollars that is stuck in other countries that we won’t let back in because we don’t have intelligent people running our country.
DICKERSON: What about other loopholes on the personal side? Mortgage interest stays in there? Charitable giving?
TRUMP: That’s right. Mortgage interest deduction would stay, absolutely.
TRUMP: Carried interest, though, would not stay. And that was the — one of the ways that the hedge fund guys who make a lot of money pay very little tax, the carried interest deduction. And that, I’m knocking out.
And my hedge fund folks are not exactly happy with me. That, I can tell you.
DICKERSON: Any other big cuts you can preview for us? Because you have got a lot of math to cover up there in…
TRUMP: Well, no, you have a lot of math, but when we start making our country strong, the numbers become incredible, what happens.
You know, John, when the country starts kicking in, when we have a dynamic economy again, the numbers are unbelievable, what happens. And right now, you know, you want to unleash the genius that is America. That’s our country. And you just unleash it.
And that’s what is going to happen under my plan, much more so than any other plan. And one thing I will say, you talk about polls. Every poll said that when it comes to the economy, when it comes to finance and the economy, I’m many times higher than my next highest rival.
TRUMP: And that’s a pretty important thing, I think. DICKERSON: All right. OK.
Donald Trump, we will look forward to having you back on to talk about those specifics. Thanks so much for being with us.
TRUMP: Thank you very much, John.
DICKERSON: Earlier, we spoke to former neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson from San Juan, Puerto Rico.
DICKERSON: Dr. Carson, I wanted to start with some back and forth that took place this week about a passing note in your autobiography about being offered a spot at West Point.
Here is something that you said at a press conference on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARSON: I never said I received a full scholarship. I never — wait a minute. Don’t — don’t lie. I never said that I received a full scholarship. Nowhere did I say that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: Full scholarship is actually how West Point refers to the tuition program.
But you told Charlie Rose about a full scholarship back on October 9. Let’s listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE CHARLIE ROSE SHOW”)
CARSON: I was offered a full scholarship to West Point, got to meet Westmoreland, go to Congressional Medal of Honor dinners, but decided, really, my pathway would be medicine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: So, straighten all this out for us.
CARSON: Well, you notice I said was offered. I didn’t say I received it.
It was in the process of a — some kind of a banquet. There were lot of military officials there. They were very impressed with my incredible rise to city executive officer faster than anyone had ever done that before, and said that, we would be able to get you a full scholarship to West Point. And I said, that’s wonderful. I was very flattered by that.
But I had already determined that I was going to go to — on to college and on to medical school. So, that’s what happened. And that’s what I said. I was offered that. But that was not something I wanted to take. I have tremendous admiration, obviously, for West Point, which is why I included that story, and tremendous admiration for the people who serve in our country.
But for people to try to take this and twist it and make it seem like something dishonest seems like dishonesty itself. And also I said within the book very close to that that I only applied to one college. I said I only had enough money to apply to one college. And I told the story behind that.
So, how could I have applied West Point if I only applied to Yale? That doesn’t make any sense. It seems to me like some of the people who do these investigations are not very good investigators.
DICKERSON: The scrutiny you’re receiving, Senator Obama received some of it about his autobiography. Hillary Clinton got some things wrong in the stories she told.
This seems to be something that happens to candidates. Or do you think it’s something — do you think you’re getting a kind of special scrutiny with these investigations that you just referred to?
CARSON: There’s no question I’m getting special scrutiny, because there are lot of people who are very threatened, and then they have seen the recent head-to-head polling against Hillary and how well I do. And they are worried.
There is no question about it. And, you know, every single day, or every other day, or every week, you know, they’re going to come out with, well, you said this when you were 13 and you did this and you did — and the whole point is to distract, distract the populace, distract me.
If you have got a real scandal, if you have got something that’s really important, I’m — let’s talk about that. Yesterday, it was “The Wall Street Journal” that comes out and says, well, he reports in his book that he took this psychology course, but we went to Yale. There was no such psychology course. There was no such scam.
What happened to investigative reporting? Because we were able to find the article. And it will be coming out within the next day or two showing what happened with that psychology course.
Why could we find it and they could not find it? And why do people put this stuff out there to make the accusation to try to make somebody seem dishonest, and then when it’s disproven, oh, well, let’s talk about something else? Oh, well, you said this when you were in kindergarten.
CARSON: Give me a break.
CARSON: I mean, there’s so many important things that need to be talked about here.
DICKERSON: Let me ask you a question about something you wrote this week, a very popular post on Facebook that you wrote answering some questions that you said supporters had brought up in terms of your political experience.
You said that the signers of the Declaration of Independence were people who were not professional politicians on that list. But the founder presidents were people who were men in public life. They either had commanded troops or they had been in the cut and thrust of public conversation for a long time.
Where would you point your supporters for that kind of experience in your background?
CARSON: I would say that we all have different experiences in life, and that our country was designed for citizen statesmen, not career politicians.
And I have had lots of experience, in life growing up experiencing every single socioeconomic level, a whole multitude of different jobs, being appointed director of pediatric neurosurgery at a very young age, when it wasn’t even on the map, working very hard over the years to establish it as a very important program in the United States, so that, by 2008, “U.S. News & World Report” ranked it number one in the nation, experience on corporate boards, international business, as well as domestic business, starting a national scholars program which is active in all 50 states, a reading room program that have won national awards that are only given to one organization in the country out of tens of thousands.
You know, that’s a lot of experience. And in terms of the 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning phone call when you have to make a life-and- death decision, I’m sure I have had a lot more of that than everybody else running combined.
DICKERSON: Let me ask you a question about an issue that has really risen to the top in New Hampshire in particular. There was a WMUR poll that showed the biggest problem facing the state, according to voters there, 25 percent of the people thought that drug abuse and drug addiction was the biggest problem facing voters there.
As a doctor, what is your sense of the human side of addiction? Where does it come from? How should it best be treated?
CARSON: Well, there are all kinds of addictions.
And, usually, addictions occur in people who are vulnerable, who are lacking something in their lives. And so we have to really start asking ourselves, what have we taken out of our lives in America? What are some of those values and principles that allowed us to ascend the latter of success so rapidly to the very pinnacle of the world and the highest pinnacle anyone else had ever reached?
And why are we in the process of throwing away all of our values and principles for the sake of political correctness? And now let me just specifically talk about a type of addiction that’s going on that is very alarming, heroin addictions, because there is a transportation of heroin through our southern borders that is unimaginable.
I was down there with the sheriffs. They were showing me the stashes and how easy it is to get this stuff through there. That’s why the price has gone down so low. And you can purchase it so easily. This is not a good thing for us. We need to not give up on this war on drugs and certainly not to facilitate it.
We can do this, but we have to have the national will to do it.
DICKERSON: Another question, you have gotten Secret Service protection. Have there been threats made against you during this campaign?
CARSON: Well, the way it works, you don’t get the Secret Service protection unless there are credible threats.
DICKERSON: And there have been a lot of those? I mean, I…
CARSON: I can’t really go into the details. I have been advised not to publicly go into the details of the threats.
DICKERSON: Dr. Ben Carson in Puerto Rico, of course, thank you so much, Doctor.
CARSON: Always a pleasure.
DICKERSON: We will be back in a minute.
DICKERSON: We turn now to the crash of a Russian passenger jet in Egypt last week that killed 224 people.
Sources tell CBS News that U.S. intelligence believes it is now likely the Russian plane was brought down by a bomb.
Joining us now is CBS News senior security contributor and former number two at the CIA Michael Morell.
Mike, how can they know that this — how can they get to likely without actually having access, intelligence to the crash site?
MICHAEL MORELL, CBS NEWS SENIOR SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Right.
So, I think we’re talking about the communications that are being intercepted of the conversations among the terrorists. Right? And early on, there was just chatter, there was just individuals congratulating each other, and that wasn’t enough to get you to a bomb on the aircraft, because it could be circular, right, with the claim of responsibility by ISIS.
But now I think you’re getting to more senior conversations among ISIS, conversations among guys who would be in the know, right, that they actually did this. So, I think that is what pushing us from a possibility to likely.
DICKERSON: What does this tell us? What are implications in terms of what this tells us about ISIS? And have they shifted?
MORELL: So, I think this is very, very significant.
This will be only the third aircraft brought down by a bomb in the last quarter-century. This is a very big deal, largest loss of life in a plane brought down by bomb since Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
I think the implications are many here. One is, it’s going to add to the perception that ISIS is winning. And that has been a key strength of their in terms of attracting — attracting followers, attracting recruits. So, that’s one implication.
Another is that ISIS now has about 20 different affiliates around the world, militant groups who have aligned themselves with ISIS. They are now going to be competing, right, for who can do something like this. And then you have al Qaeda, which since 9/11 has worked very hard to try to bring down an airliner. They have been unsuccessful.
This must be kind of a message to them that: We need to do something like this to keep our brand alive.
Right? And then the last implication, I think, is in Russia, where there will be two dynamics. One is, there will be voices saying, our intervention in Syria brought this on, so there will be a little bit of a political blowback against Putin.
But I think, at the same time, you’re going to see Putin’s reaction of, I’m going to get revenge here, right? I’m going to go after ISIS big time to make it clear that I’m not going to stand for something like this.
DICKERSON: If the military operations against ISIS have been taking place in Syria and Iraq, what you have described, though, is an affiliate network.
DICKERSON: If you go into Syria and Iraq, what about all these other places?
So, as I said, there’s been militant groups in about 20 countries that have always existed, that have been focused on local targets, that have been focused on local issues, that when ISIS was doing exceptionally well, they decided to brand themselves as ISIS. They decided to go with the lead team, so to speak. Right?
The consequence of that is that they’re no longer just focused on local issues. They’re now focused on the broader war. They’re no longer just going after local targets, right? They’re going after more international targets. This is a perfect example of that. I think we’re going to see more of it.
DICKERSON: What about U.S. targets?
MORELL: I think we have already seen it. Right?
One of the ISIS groups in Libya several months ago went after an international hotel in Tripoli frequented by international businessmen. An American was killed there. So, I think you’re going to see more of that kind of attack, including attacks against Americans.
DICKERSON: And in terms of the Russian response, what is your sense of — you outlined a couple of different responses. What is your guess about what Putin does?
MORELL: I think he uses this to try to rally, right, the Russian people to follow him.
But I think there will be people in Russia, particularly among the middle class, who believe that he’s taking the country in the wrong direction who are going to speak up a little bit about what’s happening here.
DICKERSON: In about the last 30 seconds we have, there was a report that — Politico reported Friday that Hillary Clinton’s e-mails were not actually classified material.
If it’s possible, taking the politics out of it, does that surprise you, that judgment?
MORELL: John, it does not.
The working level people in the intelligence community whose job it is to look at a piece of paper and decide whether that’s classified or not are really good people. They are really working hard. But they have a bias toward saying something is classified.
Why? Because they only get in trouble when they look at something that is classified and say it’s not. So they have a bias, right, in favor of saying it’s classified.
I have personal experience with this on both sides. So, when I was deputy director of CIA, I often was the adjudicator, looking at a judgment somebody made and saying, no, that’s not classified. And then, when I wrote my book, I was on the other side and I had senior people saying, that’s not classified.
DICKERSON: All right, Michael Morell, thanks so much.
MORELL: Good to be with you.
DICKERSON: We will be right back with some more of Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live.” Stay with us.
DICKERSON: Donald Trump has introduced some new elements to the presidential campaign this year, rides for the kids at the Iowa State Fair, buzzing a stadium in his private jumbo jet.
And last night, he became the first candidate to imagine a presidential Cabinet meeting with the help of the cast of “Saturday Night Live.”
The exaggerations are only a little smaller than the ones he makes in his actual campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”)
TRUMP: Madam Secretary, how is the situation in Russia?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Never better. After your face-to-face meeting, Putin has withdrawn from Ukraine. And, believe me, he does not want to be called loser again. He cried for hours.
TRUMP: Well, I’m sorry. I just had to do that. Keep up the good work Omarosa. You’re doing fantastic.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Mr. President, the president of Mexico is here to see you.
TRUMP: Oh, that’s great. Send him in.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Donald.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I brought you the check for the wall.
TRUMP: Oh, that’s so wonderful.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: This is far too much money.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: No, I insist. Consider it apology for doubting you. As history shows us, nothing brings two countries together like a wall.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Mr. President, I’m so sorry to interrupt, but we have got a big problem.
TRUMP: What is it?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: It’s the American people, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: They’re just sick of winning. They’re winning so much. It’s just too great, sir.
TRUMP: Look, I know how they feel. It’s exhausting. But that’s what — really, I mean, that is the price you have to pay.
Winning is tough. It’s not that easy. If you think that is how it’s going to be when I’m president, you’re wrong. It’s going to be even better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: We will be right back.
DICKERSON: Some of our stations are leaving us now, but, for most of you, we will be right back with a lot more.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. I’m John Dickerson.
Joining us now, New York Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
Senator, let’s talk a little bit about the news of the day. President Obama said it might have been possible that there was a bomb on this Russian airliner that went down. Perhaps a terrorist act. What — what do you know about that as a member of the Armed Services Committee?
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: Well, we have no intelligence beyond certainly what the president has. And it is interesting that U.K. intelligence thinks it’s more likely than not that it could have been a bomb. It’s a serious issue. And, obviously, this issue of terrorism really weighs on the American people. So I think it’s important that we fully investigate it, that we know all the answers and understand really what was at play.
DICKERSON: If, this is a big if, but if ISIS was involved, what does that tell you about their changing profile and — and the U.S. fight against ISIS?
GILLIBRAND: Well, it would seem to be a change in profile. It would seem to be a different level of capacity that we’ve not seen in the past. And, obviously, that would cause grave concern for many of us who focus on national security. As New Yorker, we are often the number one terror target. We’ve been table to avert (ph) attempts in the past. And it’s very important that — that we do this full investigation so we are knowledgeable.
DICKERSON: What’s your feeling about the war against ISIS, particularly in Syria? The president’s got 50 special operations troops in there. What did you think of that move?
GILLIBRAND: Well, I think he needs an authorization from Congress. He would need — if he wants to put troops on the ground in Syria, he does not currently have an authorization to do that. And I did not support his strategy to arm the rebels. I didn’t think that would work. I thought those arms would end up in the hands of ISIL. And so I was very concerned about that strategy and voted against the Armed Services Bill because of it.
But I do think he needs to come back to Congress if he wants to create this new strategy of 50 advisors who will be on the ground in some mission, and I think it’s important that he get permission from Congress to do so.
DICKERSON: What’s your feeling about the underlying choice of that strategy though?
GILLIBRAND: I think it’s a — a — I don’t think it’s a strategy that will work long term. I think ISIL is grave threat to the region. It’s causing extraordinary instability. I think what we could be doing more of is dealing with a humanitarian crisis. I wish we were focused on how we can create relief for millions of families that are streaming out of Syria. I’ve seen our European partners really pick up the pace and take significant responsibility for these families. What Germany has done is outstanding. I think America should be doing more.
DICKERSON: Does doing more mean a no fly zone to protect those refugees?
GILLIBRAND: Well, I know that’s something that the administration has been considering. No fly zones require, if it’s a humanitarian no fly zone, they require boots on the ground. And that is not something that I support right now. It’s not something that even the American people want to see, thousands of troops in Syria. But we need to do something about the humanitarian crisis. And so I think we should be stepping up. We should be receiving more families. We should receive them before 2017. We should be doing it now. And we should be helping. I see pictures of children dying, crying, suffering, and we should be doing more.
DICKERSON: Let me talk to you about the thing you’ve been working so hard on, which is getting funding for the 9/11 first responders. What’s the state of the legislation and the funding for those who rushed in after the attack?
GILLIBRAND: Well, it’s expired and I think it’s a moral outrage that we are not standing by our first responders. These are the men and women who literally raced up towers when everyone else was coming down and did the awful and hard work of first looking for survivors and then looking for remains. And if you remember the days after 9/11, the toxins were streaming out of the site and they were breathing in these toxins for weeks and months.
And, unfortunately, these men are now dying. More police officers have died since 9/11 than on 9/11. Over 200 first responders have died since 9/11 from these diseases. And there are thousands that are sick. There’s tens of thousands who are being treated today in every state in the country. And I think it’s a moral outrage that members of Congress are not doing the right thing and standing by this.
We need to reauthorize the program. It needs to be permanent. We’ve had this program up and running for five years. There’s been no fraud. It’s been seamless. And we’ve treated cancers and other diseases that are now directly caused by 9/11 toxins it’s been proven. So there’s no reason that anyone should stand in the way. And if they do, they’re putting politics before people. And I think it is a grave mistake to not support them.
DICKERSON: Let me ask you about Wall Street. Your constituent in the Democratic Party, there is a big conversation about the role of Wall Street. And a lot of Democrats, lot of liberals say, we got to go right at Wall Street, both for that they do to tilt the economic field, but also because it’s an important symbol and we need, as a party, to be tough on Wall Street because it shows all across the country that we are for the 99 percent and not for the 1 percent. What do you make of that?
GILLIBRAND: Well, I think there’s a huge issue in the country about income equality and lack of opportunity. And, you know, if you’re talking about an inner city where it’s more likely that a young African-American male is going to go to jail than graduate from college, that’s a huge problem and we have to fix that. So there’s injustice throughout our economy, throughout opportunity, throughout access to education. The fact that young kids aren’t getting universal pre-K in too many cities aren’t getting even universal kindergarten. Access to affordable daycare is harming our future for our children in every part of this country. And I think in terms of Wall Street and banking, the worst thing in the world for America is to have another financial collapse. So there are legitimate issues that need to be reviewed to make sure we have the right oversight and accountability over our banking institution. To make sure the rating agencies are being held accountable for how their play in the financial collapse, because we want the financial markets to always be there for us to fund our businesses, to fund the economy, and — and so I think both areas — both sides of that coin are legitimate areas for debate and discussion.
DICKERSON: Do you think there’s a little over doing it though in the going after Wall Street as a — as the heart of this inequality that you describe?
GILLIBRAND: I think it’s used as a shorthand for the larger picture. I think people will target Wall Street specifically because they’re talking about income inequality, specifically because they’re talking about a lack of opportunity. That we don’t have paid leave in this country. That, you know, more often than not women constantly are ramping off their careers and can’t actually reach their full earning potential, creating a drag on our economy. Those are issues that trouble people. And so oftentimes is it summarized into some negative talking point about banking or Wall Street. But I — I think the substantive issues are very legitimate and should be debated and we do need more reforms to continue to keep our markets stable.
DICKERSON: All right. One other question. Donald Trump, he’s a constituent of yours. Do you think he’ll get the nomination in — in the — in the Republican field?
GILLIBRAND: You are the pundit, not me. I have no idea. I have no idea.
DICKERSON: All right. Senator Gillibrand, thanks so much for being with us.
GILLIBRAND: Thank you.
DICKERSON: We’ll be back in a moment.
DICKERSON: And we’re back with our political panel. Molly Ball is with “The Atlantic.” David Ignatius is a columnist with “The Washington Post.” Ben Domenech is the publisher of “The Federalist.” And Ed O’Keefe covers politics for “The Washington Post.”
Ed, I’ll start with you.
So, Ben Carson and these stories about his — his autobiography, is this a threat or a gnat to be swatted away?
ED O’KEEFE, WASHINGTON POST: I think he thinks it’s a gnat to be swatted away. I think his opponents, as Mr. Trump demonstrated this morning, certainly plan to seize on it to some extent.
I’m kind of fascinated by his response to all this, however. I mean the idea that presidential candidates, especially those that suddenly start to do well, don’t get vetted, don’t get scrutinized lot more. He’s clearly struggling, I think, with this. And the suggestion that others have not gone through this, you know, ignores history. I think if you go back to Gary Hart, Joe Biden, Bill Clinton, certainly President Obama, Herman Cain last time, this happens. And the real test is sort of, how do they respond to this? Can they change the subject or does it ultimately, you know, derail their candidacy?
DICKERSON: Molly, in — in the case of his back story, though, this isn’t a central claim at the heart of it, right? I mean his story is from poverty to famed neurosurgeon. The — the West Point is a little bit of a side show.
MOLLY BALL, THE ATLANTIC: It is. Well, and I think — I think Ed is right that the idea that a candidate would be vetted is not at all outrageous, but Ben Carson has won this round. I think there is no doubt. I think the fact that he had a plausible explanation for the West Point thing, even if there was maybe a minor exaggeration, the original story did not hold up to scrutiny and, frankly, I think a lot of people want to see Ben Carson be tested because he hasn’t been in politics before. Even if you support him for his story and for his belief, you want to know that he can handle a little bit of scrutiny. And so far he is handling it, I think, pretty — pretty deptly (ph). You know, you got under his skin, I thought, a little bit in that interview. He started to seem a little irritated. But for the most part, this is a man who keeps his cool.
DICKERSON: Ys, Ben, he’s raised a lot of money off of this. I mean you — you could argue that you basically couldn’t design a better thing as a primary candidate. I mean he gets to say the press is after me, which keeps him from being asked questions again, and he gets to raise money off of it. So as Molly says, he looks like he’s won this round.
BEN DOMENECH, THE FEDERALIST: I make it a general policy not to disagree with Molly unless I think about it very seriously and I agree with her in this case. I think this — this absolutely benefits Ben Carson. He is a candidate, of course, who is basing his entire campaign on his biography, on this narrative about his life. The one problem in the long term for candidates like that is that when that is the only basis they have, when they don’t have the political career and record to shift the conversation to whenever questions are raised about their biography, as we’ve seen in the past with other candidates, it gives them less of an alternative point to make. I think in this case the mistake was a media entity going after a candidate basically saying that he was lying about something that he had never said exactly in those terms and I think it — it was therefore overplayed and certainly accrued (ph) to his benefit in the short term when it came to raising money.
DICKERSON: David, I talked to Dr. Carson about experience. And he — he wrote his supporters this week and said, you know, the signers of the Declaration of Independence didn’t have a lot of experience. From a national security perspective, we’re having a conversation in this campaign about, does a senator have better experience, does a governor? But now you’ve got two people running, three, I guess, if you include Carly Fiorina, without any of that experience. Give me your sense of what the test is. Can they just walk in to the job of the president and have enough advisors?
DAVID IGNATIUS, WASHINGTON POST: That they — they shouldn’t. The purpose of this period of the campaign is for hard questions to be asked in debates, in pieces of journalism that really dig. Of these — of these candidates, unfortunately this sometimes becomes the gotcha primary where instead of asking the fundamental question, is this person qualified, does this person have a vision about national security or anything else, we instead focus in the media on small inconsistencies, gaffs, things we dig out 20 years ago. Ah, people get — get angry at that. But the fundamental work of asking, what would this person do as president? What really are their views? That’s — that’s what we need to really focus on. I hope we won’t be pushed back by Ben Carson complaining about our questions and vetting because that’s — that’s a key job. DOMENECH: But, David, it’s there a problem here that has emerged that’s not so much due to the media as it is due to the priorities of the people themselves? I mean right now we just saw Donald Trump go on and demonstrate the qualities that one needs to be commander in chief in the modern era, which is an ability to dance to drake and an ability to send out particularly funny tweets. I mean, you know, frankly, if your attitude is that you’re fine with the government offering people bread and circuses, you might as well hire the guy who seems like Barnum and Bailey. This is the sort of thing that I think is as much driven by the demand of the people for entertainment as it is the media actually asking questions here. If you really wanted to dig into policies related to what Ben Carson thought about TPP or about trade, about — about foreign relations or the like, that’s probably going to get a lot less attention at this stage than asking him something about the pyramids.
IGNATIUS: In the — in the end it’s going to come down to voters. And if voters are satisfied with the kind of huxterism (ph) that some candidates have or the — the ability to be a great reality TV star, that’s going to be decisive in the primaries. We’ll see the numbers soon. A lot of me thinks it won’t be. But, you know, we’ve never had a primary season quite like this, I have to say.
DICKERSON: One of the — one of the candidates, Ed, who hopes that the conversation will move back towards the serious business of governing is Jeb Bush. So he has got to — been trying to reboot this week. He’s had a — a bus tour. He’s done a lot of interviews, talked compellingly about his daughter’s struggle with addiction. Where — and there’s a debate coming up with — with the Republicans. Where does the Bush campaign stand and is this debate, you know, make or break for him?
O’KEEFE: I think it is another make or break moment. I think the last one certainly broke him a little bit. You know, and he — he slid farther back. He is no longer center stage. He is in single digits nationally and in these early states despite spending millions of dollars. Last week was reboot. This coming week I think is even more critical because it’s, can you — can you keep to this new theme? Can you — can you remain as disciplined and as on message as you were last week?
His campaign has downsized. There’s no doubt that — that staffers have taken pay cuts. They’ve parted ways with others. They’ve reassigned a bunch to the early states. But this is still a guy who wants to be everywhere as much as possible. And the question will be, can he really focus relentlessly, solely on places like New Hampshire, maybe South Carolina, a little bit in his home state of Florida, and just keep doing that circuit. John Kasich, Chris Christie prove that if you focus on one place and one place only, your numbers will rise and potentially sparks will fly and you’ll do well everywhere else.
But, you know, the other thing that was stunning about this week, that — that book that came out about his father, you know, the idea that one former president is — is critiquing another former president in a tell all is unprecedented to begin with. The fact that they’re both related to somebody running and this creates new questions about his family what he believes and whether he agrees with his brother or his dad, you know, just creates another headache for him at a really, really tough time.
DICKERSON: Well, David, what did you make of that book? Jon Meacham’s book about George Herbert Walker Bush?
IGNATIUS: I thought it captured the — a fundamental dilemma for — for Jeb. Is — is he with his — with his brother, Bush 43, or is he with his dad, Bush 41. His dad was so critical of the neoconservative advisors, people around Bush 43. Those are the very people that Jeb has drawn into his campaign as advisors. You’d have to say in the Bush family primary, Jeb is voting for his brother over his father in recent months.
DICKERSON: Molly, the rest of the Republican field, Chris Christie not making debate stage. As I mentioned, he was gaining some — ground in New Hampshire, not making it, is that a big deal? Where do you think the rest of the race stands?
BALL: It’s a big deal for him and for Mike Huckabee who also got kicked off the big stage. We are seeing a narrowing. Now maybe it’s a forced narrowing. People aren’t actually dropping out. It’s kind of remarkable that no one has dropped out since Scott Walker saw the writing on the wall.
But we do have the debate now coming down to eight people. Jeb, as — as Ed said, is moving farther and farther from the center of that stage and there’s only so far you can get out to the wings. I think, you know, Trump is still in the middle of that stage. He is still the frontrunner. And this has been a durable phenomenon that has lasted for months and months. And part of what I think you see happening is that his support has solidified. People have wandered away from him. You saw a dip for him. And then he went back up because people didn’t find anybody else that they liked. So I think we see voters who maybe once just glommed on to Trump because he was interesting, now hardening because they don’t see anything better out there in the field.
DICKERSON: Thirty seconds, Ben.
DOMENECH: There is an effort on the part of backers of Marco Rubio to really make a push at this moment, to push forward the endorsements, push forward the backers, and to push Jeb Bush and others out of the race. They’ve realized he needs to solidify that support in order to position himself for the long haul.
DICKERSON: The alternative person to the Trump/Carson side of it.
DICKERSON: All right. We’re going to pause there. We’ll be back with our panel in just a moment. Stay with us.
DICKERSON: More of our panel. David, I want to talk to you about this — the Russian plane and the claims of responsibility by ISIS. What’s your take on this?
IGNATIUS: As the evidence grows that this was a bomb that brought down the Russian plane over Sinai, I think it’s causing some fundamental concern. The analytical view of ISIS was that they were so focused on building their caliphate, that they were not seeking external actions. They were not, other than these loan wolf attacks, isolated, not all that — all that damaging, going after the big targets al Qaeda style, this shoot down of the plane, if that’s what it proves to be, will change that assessment.
Also, as Michael Morell said earlier on your show, the demonstration effect of this for other groups and for other branches of ISIS who look at this, look at the uproar that it’s causing, cancellation of flights and say, we want to get in that game, too, that’s a — that’s a real problem.
DICKERSON: Does that change the response from the U.S. in terms of (INAUDIBLE)?
IGNATIUS: The U.S. is in a very tricky position. The U.S., I was told this morning, is seeking to be helpful to Russia, and to Egypt, in this investigation providing intelligence. But the U.S. does not want to signal to Russia that it’s back to business as usual. There’s an insistence. And as long as you have troops in eastern Ukraine, as long as the Crimea issue isn’t resolved, we are not going to embrace you as a common ally against ISIS.
DOMENECH: But this seriously is a situation where you have the Russians have an opportunity to demonstrate, to — once again, that they are a more reliable patron in the Middle East than the United States, which is a real danger that this stage. We’ve seen it happen before and it’s going to continue. Obviously there are risks for Putin in terms of the domestic ones, as Michael Morell made issue of earlier in terms of seeing, you’re just like another western nation experiencing blow back. But it’s also a situation where the president really should be talking to the Egyptians, I feel like, and demonstrating that we are going to be a reliable patron.
DICKERSON: All right. We’re going to switch back to politics now.
Molly, “The Des Moines Register” has a headline today that reads, “as Iowa debate approaches, Clinton seems inevitable again.” Is that where the Democratic race stands, inevitable Clinton?
BALL: She — she is in a commanding position. I mean there are only three candidates left, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Standers and they — oh, and Martin O’Malley –
DICKERSON: And Martin O’Malley is the one you’re leaving out there.
BALL: Who is — exactly, what’s his name again?
DICKERSON: And your — your iPhone is now filled with e-mails from his campaign. Go ahead.
BALL: Completely filled.
But, you know, Bernie has fallen back since Hillary has had a sort of a run of good news. The debate performance, if she pulls off another debate performance like the last one, you know, it’s just going to be more of this narrative I think that she is on top by a — by a wide margin and nobody seems to be able to knock her off. And, you know, I think looking ahead, obviously unexpected things could happen. We in the media get bored when there’s no conflict and may try to start some trouble. I think that’s part of what this, oh, Bernie’s gone negative theme has been about, it’s just the desperate desire for some kind of real contest. But barring something unexpected, you know, potentially she wins Iowa the whole thing is over.
DICKERSON: Ed, Bernie’s gone negative. If he’s gone negative, he’s gone there in slow steps. I mean he hasn’t really –
O’KEEFE: And somewhat reluctantly I think.
O’KEEFE: And — and really it’s on the margins. And — and — and what’s fascinating, too, is the pushback he’s gotten either suddenly or explicitly from the Clinton camp is the idea of sexism. And I think, you know, it would be very interesting to see how he rides that out in the next few months, but then also, inevitably, how the Republicans handle that. I think they — there is — there are lessons to be learned from her previous campaigns. I think Rick Lazio (ph) certainly has the wounds to remind us from 2000 of how you campaign against a woman like her. But it will be very interesting to see if Sanders comes up with anything that sticks and raises fresh doubts with liberal voters especially about her because so far in the last few weeks nothing has stuck. And I think it’s also part of the reason why — why Republicans are getting anxious. You talked about it, Ben, about the idea of consolidating. That the sooner they can do that, the sooner they can focus their fire on her and not be squabbling among themselves and potentially blow an opportunity.
DOMENECH: I feel like in this situation Bernie Sanders has enormous opportunities to be more critical of Hillary Clinton, particularly when it comes to the news this week that she did sign this non-disclosure agreement as it related to — to the materials related to her e-mails. I feel like this is a situation where if Bernie wanted to be more critical of her, as a commander in chief, as a potential president, then he could be. I think the fact that he isn’t kind of sends the message that this is more about the ideas that he wants to espouse as opposed to actually trying to win the nomination.
DICKERSON: David, I want to play — we’re going to play a quick clip from President Obama here talking about the Republicans and their debate. Anger at the CNBC moderators.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It turns out they can’t handle a bunch of CNBC moderators. OK. If you can’t handle those guys, you know, then, I don’t think the Chinese and the Russians are going to be too worried about you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: David, I play that because it seems like he’s in a sweet spot before a nominee gets named where he can kind of have fun at the — at the Republicans’ expense. What did you make of it?
IGNATIUS: I thought it was a — it was a great line and I thought there some was truth to it. The Republican debate may have been a disaster for the — for the media asking the questions, but I didn’t think the Republican candidates came out of it very well. And — and all of the squabbling, unfair — the media is so mean, they’re asking nasty questions. I think that makes the Republican candidates — it diminishes them. And if they stay on that, it may work with some Republican primary base voters, but I can’t imagine that it’s going to be effective with — with the electorate as a whole. People are looking for someone who can be commander in chief and that’s not the person who whines about media coverage.
DICKERSON: Well, we’ll have a chance to see on Tuesday night. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to end it there.
Ben, I’m sorry, as your moderator, to cut you off. Mean moderator.
DOMENECH: Yes. Looking at you again.
DICKERSON: Thanks to all of you. We’ll be right back.
DICKERSON: Time for today. Be sure to tune in next Saturday for the CBS News Democratic debate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, live at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 Pacific. Plus, FACE THE NATION will be broadcasting from the debate site the next morning.
Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I’m John Dickerson.