Susan Rice and Haley Barbour on "Face the Nation"

Susan Rice and Haley Barbour on "Face the Nation"

By Face the Nation - June 28, 2009

SCHIEFFER: Today on "Face the Nation," Iran's supreme leader calls for unity. Has the crackdown succeeded in stopping the protests? Plus, the Governor Sanford scandal and the Republican Party.

Iran's leaders have clamped down hard on opposition forces who are still claiming the election was rigged. Is it over? Where do we go from here? Can we deal with this government? We'll ask U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice.

Then we'll turn to the scandal in South Carolina involving Governor Mark Sanford . How much damage has it done to a Republican Party that is already on the ropes? We'll ask the new head of the Republican Governors Association, Haley Barbour of Mississippi, who is already being talked about now as one of the possibilities for the Republican presidential nomination next time.

Then I'll have a final word on Michael Jackson and the wall-to- wall coverage of his death.

But first, the violence in Iran and the scandals back home on "Face the Nation."

And good morning again. And we are beginning this morning with those scandals back home, the scandal that rocked the Republican Party when governor -- the governor of South Carolina suddenly showed up, after being missing for five days, and disclosed that he was involved with a woman from Argentina. He said he was stepping down as chairman of the Republican Conference of Governors. He was succeeded by Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi. Governor Barbour is with us this morning from Jackson, Mississippi.

Welcome to you, Governor. You were slated to take over this post. You're stepping in a little early because Mark Sanford has resigned as head of the Republican Governors Conference. Thank you for coming.

Should he also resign as the governor of South Carolina?

BARBOUR: I don't think so, but that's up to the people of South Carolina. But no, I don't think so.

SCHIEFFER: This seems to go beyond just the fact that, you know, he became involved in this relationship. He was basically missing in action for five days. He's the governor of Mississippi (sic). He wasn't there -- of South Carolina. He was not there. People didn't know where he was.

I can remember one time several years ago, Governor Barbour, when you were supposed to be on "Face the Nation" and you canceled at the last minute, you said, I'm very sorry, there's a hurricane coming and I've got to make sure we're all set and prepared to do that. Isn't this more than just a sex scandal here? I mean, this is dereliction of duty, isn't it?

BARBOUR: You know, Bob, I don't know all the details. But I've been in politics a long time. I've made it my policy, I just don't talk about people's personal problems. I don't think it's appropriate, I don't think it's polite, and I don't think it achieves any purpose. The people of South Carolina will decide that. For us at the Republican Governors Association, we're just going to keep focused on what we were doing to start with. And I don't believe what happens in South Carolina will change one vote in the governor's race in New Jersey. And of course that's what we're focused on now, is the New Jersey and the Virginia governors races this November.

SCHIEFFER: But what about the Republican Party in general? Your chances in 2012? This is the party that's called itself the party of family values and so on and so forth. You're going through a series of scandals now. This is not the first. Just like in the past, Democrats --we have seen Democrats involved in things like this.

What does this do to the image of the party and how you try to project yourself and present yourself as a party, Governor?

BARBOUR: Well, these issues have been bipartisan issues, as you note, Bob. But for us as Republicans, the biggest issue about this or about spending or about other policy issues is Republicans need to do what they say they're going to do. I mean, that's the issue. Are you going to do what you say you're going to do? And I think that's what feeds this -- feeds this.

But the good thing for us as governors is we have 22 Republican governors. And on public policy, they have done what they said they were going to do. They've worked very hard to control spending. You know, governors -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- we have to balance our budgets. It's not easy. You're going to have to make tough decisions. People expect you to do that, and for a conservative Republican like me, people expect you to try to control spending. In other states where you have got liberal Democrat governors, maybe they expect tax increases, but people need you to do what you said you're going to do. And that's the big thing, regardless of what the issue is.

SCHIEFFER: Do you think that Republicans now should sort of shift the emphasis, though, from stressing social and family values and shift to more to economic issues and be a party of economic conservatives rather than putting so much emphasis on these social issues?

BARBOUR: Look, the American people right now are very concerned about our country's future.

BARBOUR: And they're very concerned about this incredible burst of spending, a surge of spending unlike anything in American history, where every month there's a new way to spend a trillion dollars.

They're very concerned about taxes. Friday the House of Representatives, by a very small handful of votes, passed the president's energy policy, which is a gigantic hidden energy tax, plus a whole lot of open energy taxes.

People are concerned about when they get trillions of dollars of taxes added onto them. And then they're worried about the debt that is being generated by this and what it's going to do to our children.

So what should Republicans be talking about? They need to be talking about the issues that are on people's minds. There are people concerned about social issues. There are people concerned about the Obama administration's policies, about the Second Amendment and the ownership of guns.

But what Republicans and anybody else ought to be talking about are the issues that affect people's lives. And right now I think the American people's greatest concern is about our economy and the policies of this administration which most people don't think are going in the right direction because they're very concerned about this incredible spending.

After all, Bob, a lot of people realize excess money supply, spending, these were some of the things that got us into the trouble that we're in, all of this subprime mortgage business about lending people money who didn't have the ability to pay it back. All of this sounds very familiar to the American people and what the Obama administration is doing now.

SCHIEFFER: And let me ask you about that, Governor. David Axelrod, the White House -- one of the senior advisers to President Obama, was on television this morning. And he said that the idea of a second stimulus is still on the table.

He didn't say he was going to recommend one or he didn't say that one was going to be needed. Do you think that the stimulus package that the president put together and that the Congress approved, do you think it is working? And do you think there will be a need for another stimulus package?

BARBOUR: Well, I think the stimulus package that we have is far too expensive. I think you could have done a whole lot more created and created as many or more jobs with a lot less money.

There's a lot of social policy in this stimulus package that really doesn't affect job creation. I think David Axelrod is one of the most capable political operatives and thinkers that I've ever seen. I have huge respect for his political ability.

But as far as the economy is concerned, I do not think we need to have another multi-hundred billion-, trillion-dollar spending package. I think that what we're going to find out is that while this may have some short-term positive effect, hasn't had much yet but it may, the real long-term effect is very negative on interest rates, inflation, and the value of the dollar, all of which of course are inter-related.

SCHIEFFER: How do you think the Republican Party in general is doing now in the relationship -- or should I say the reactions it is taking to the Obama administration? The president has launched any number of programs, as you well know.

Basically so far the Republicans just seem to be saying, no, we don't like that. But Democrats would say, you haven't come up with any real alternatives to any of that, Governor.

BARBOUR: Well, let's take just the issue of the day. On Friday the House passed -- despite 30-something Democrats voting against the president and the leadership, passed a bill 1,200 pages long, 300 pages of which were introduced at 3:00 Friday morning about energy policy.

And energy policy affects every family, every business, the total economy. They barely won in the House. Almost every Republican voted against it. And Republicans have offered a very clear alternative. Our alternative is more American energy.

That instead of the Obama policy, which is to make energy more expensive, and you know, don't take my word for it, Bob, he told The San Francisco Chronicle as a candidate last year, he said, under my cap and trade plan, electricity rates will necessarily skyrocket. That's Barack Obama 's language, not mine.

And our policy...

SCHIEFFER: But what do you mean, you're for your energy? I mean, what does that mean?

BARBOUR: We want to use all of the American sources of energy we have. We have tremendous amounts of American energy, more off-shore drilling, more drilling in Alaska, more opening up of shales and tar sands in other places for oil and gas.

BARBOUR: But also, nuclear energy is an enormous part of this country's future in electricity generation. Clean coal technology, to recognize we're the Saudi Arabia of coal and we want to be using that coal. And we're learning, even in my state of Mississippi, we have in permitting right now the first coal-fired electric plant that will on a commercial scale practice carbon capture and sequestration.

America has abundant affordable energy, but the Obama administration's purpose here is to use less American energy, to have less oil and gas. Their position on nuclear is they, at best -- they have had many administration officials say that coal is not part of the future, and the secretary of energy said last September what we really need in America is to figure out how to get our gasoline prices up to where they are in Europe -- $6, $8, $9 a gallon. I don't know about California where he was, but we don't that in Mississippi, and we don't need to drive up the electric bills of families about $50 or $100 a month. So there's a very stark difference there, Bob, and Republicans have a very clear alternative policy.

SCHIEFFER: I have just a little time left. Are you going to seek the Republican presidential nomination next time, Governor?

BARBOUR: Bob, I don't have any plan to. I don't have any intention to. Right now, I think every Republican who wants to rebuild our party needs to be focused on elections of 2009 and ‘10. I mentioned the New Jersey and the Virginia governors' races, both very competitive and very important. We have 37 governors' races next year, plus the entire House of Representatives, a third of the Senate. I'm not going to give any thought to running for anything until after the 2010 election.

I'd be very surprised if I ended up running for president, but I can't just say flatly no. But I would be very surprised. My wife would be even more surprised.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, Governor, we want to thank you. I have a feeling we're going to be hearing more from you on the national scene now in your new role as the chairman of the Republican Governors Conference.

We'll be back in a minute to talk with Susan Rice.


SCHIEFFER: And joining us now from Park City, Utah for her first appearance on "Face the Nation," our ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice. Madam Ambassador, thank you for coming.

Give us first your latest information on what exactly is happening in Iran right now.

RICE: Well, Bob, the situation seems to have gone from bad to worse, in the sense that those peaceful protesters who are expressing their extraordinary outrage and dismay at the election results have been clamped down to the extent that there really are no more active protests. There are reports of beating and harassment of individuals in their homes, and the government has issued some very aggressive statements threatening to punish those who participated in the demonstrations. In one instance, one ayatollah even suggested with the death penalty.

The supreme leader as well today called for reconciliation and calm, but they're not seemingly prepared to take the steps that the opposition is demanding, that there be a cancellation of the prior election and a full run of a new election, rather than this 10 percent recount which Mr. Mousavi has said is not credible.

SCHIEFFER: So the demonstrations, they have pretty much ended the demonstrations. But do you believe the opposition has been crushed, Madam Ambassador?

RICE: Well, it seems that for the time being, the opportunity for them to protest in a very public and organized way has been constrained.

RICE: But something extraordinary has happened of late in Iran, and the popular discontent, the incredible diversity of the coalition that has come together to demand change, from women to the elderly to youth, the very religious to the more secular, has been quite extraordinary. And I think that this is a profound moment of change in Iran, the implications and consequences of which we are yet to fully see unfold.

SCHIEFFER: The president, Ahmadinejad, said today that his response and his dealing with the United States from here on in will be more harsh and more decisive, I think he said. In other words, he seemed to be saying he's going to take a harder line if, in fact, that's possible. What do you make of that?

RICE: Well, Bob, what seems to be going on again is something that has been a traditional element of the regime's playbook, which is to blame the outside world, blame the West, blame the United States rather than to recognize and acknowledge that what has transpired in Iran is really between the people of Iran and their government.

This is a profound moment of change. And what Ahmadinejad says to try to change the subject is frankly not going to work in the current context, because the people understand that the United States has not been meddling in their internal affairs; that on the contrary, we have expressed our values and our admiration for the bravery and the courage of those who have demonstrated and expressed themselves peacefully in support of true democracy.

And Ahmadinejad is, in fact, as we well know, not the principal decision-maker when it comes to foreign policy and national security. It is the supreme leader. That was the case before the election; it is the case now. And we will proceed in pursuit of our national interests, using all elements at our disposal, to try to achieve the goals that are most important to us, which are obviously to prevent Iran from pursuing its nuclear weapons capability, preventing a regional arms race, ensuring that our partners and allies in the region and indeed the United States remain safe.

SCHIEFFER: Do we consider this government legitimate now, Madam Ambassador? In other words, are we prepared to still sit down and talk with them, as President Obama once said he wanted to do?

RICE: Well, legitimacy obviously is in the eyes of the people. And obviously the government's legitimacy has been called into question by the protests in the streets. But that's not the critical issue in terms of our dealings with Iran. We are concerned for our own national interests to ensure that Iran doesn't pursue its nuclear program.

We didn't have diplomatic relations with Iran before the elections. Obviously we don't have them at present.

We will continue to pursue the offer that the P-5, the permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany put on the table two months ago in April to give the Iranians a choice. This is up to them. They have one path which is a path of ending their nuclear weapons program and acting responsibly, rejoining the community of nations, or another path, which is to face increased isolation and pressure. That is up to them.

But we have not rescinded that prospect. That is a choice that the Iranian government will make, and we will continue in partnership with those countries, the P-5-plus-one as it's called, in pursuit of our national interest.

SCHIEFFER: So to make sure I understand what you're saying, we're still willing to talk to them if they want to talk? Just to see where it goes if nothing else?

RICE: We have an interest in any case in trying to ensure that Iran does not achieve a nuclear weapons capability. We have pursued that through multilateral diplomacy. We've left the door open to bilateral diplomacy, but the choice is really with the Iranians now. Something profound has happened inside of Iran. We need to see how that plays out. We need to see if indeed the offers that have been made by the international community will be opportunities that the Iranians choose to accept.

They face a stark choice -- greater isolation or ending their nuclear program and their other destabilizing activities and rejoining a responsible community of nations. That prospect remains their choice, but it's in the United States' national interest to make sure that we have employed all elements at our disposal, including diplomacy, to prevent Iran from achieving that nuclear capacity.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you -- let me ask you about North Korea. There's a North Korean ship out there. It may or may not be loaded with missile technology and other things.

The United Nations has passed a resolution calling us on to perhaps request that that vessel stop and let us inspect what's on board. But, obviously, the resolution does not give the United States the right to board that ship.

What's going to happen?

Eventually that ship is going to have to stop somewhere for fuel. Where is this -- where is this thing going, Madam Ambassador?

RICE: Well, obviously we're pursuing and following the progress of that ship very closely. I'm not going to get into our operational details or what we might actually do on the high seas, if anything, or what allies and partners in the region might do.

I think it's important to understand that this ship and indeed the interdiction authorities that the new resolution that recently passed the Security Council gave us and everybody in the international community is but one piece of a very tough, very comprehensive sanctions regime that we are going to pursue fully and implement and enforce fully and effectively.

And so will other nations around the world. So we have tough new financial sanctions and arms embargo on North Korea and indeed a preparedness to freeze the assets of additional companies and individuals that are active in North Korea's missile defense -- excuse me, ballistic missile program, its nuclear program and its proliferation activities.

So, when this resolution is fully enforced, not only in terms of potential vessels that may be violating the sanctions but the financial sanctions, the arms embargo, the assets freezes, this will be a very, very tough package that will have an impact on North Korea.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, Madam Ambassador, we're going to have to leave it there. Thank you very much for joining us.


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