Joe Lieberman, Jon Kyl, Kay Bailey Hutchison & Barney Frank on "State of the Union"

Joe Lieberman, Jon Kyl, Kay Bailey Hutchison & Barney Frank on "State of the Union"

By State of the Union - November 25, 2012

CROWLEY: So let me start out just with a general question, because here we are at the end of the year. We are looking at a situation where the country is about to go off the so-called fiscal cliff, and I want you to kind of look back and think did you ever believe that people -- that Congress would get so entrenched in different sides that there was a possibility the country would go off the fiscal cliff? Does it surprise you where we are?

LIEBERMAN: I mean, what shocks me is that we're actually $16 trillion in debt. I mean, we've built up this incredible debt over a period of years. I never would have guessed that we would be in this position when we started out.

CROWLEY: And you guys were all here for that?

LIEBERMAN: I know. We're all guilty. We're all part of it, how it got here, and a couple of presidents contributed too.

So am I surprised we're facing this fiscal cliff now? No, because we put it in. We created this cliff because we thought it would be so terrifying, that Congress would actually be shaken to reach a bipartisan agreement to reduce the debt. And that's what our responsibility is in the time between now and the end of this year.

HUTCHISON: I think Congress is reflecting the nation. I think we are very divided. Not in the goal, but in how we get there, and I think America is too. And I think that is reflected, and I do believe that after this election, we now know Americans expect us to go forward, and we have no choice but to go forward.

FRANK: I think Kay has made a very important point. One of the things that's troubled me about the analysis of Congress is people act as if we're in a bubble and we just were self-generated. I mean, there are few people in this building who aren't here because they didn't get more votes than anybody else in the last election. And to the extent the public doesn't like the results, they should be doing a little self-criticism.

It's exacerbated by one of the great inventions, creations of our humanity, which is the American Constitution. At any given time, America is governed by the results of three elections. That's our Constitution. There are senators who were elected in 2006 who are here. There's a president elected in 2008, and then a House of Representatives predominantly in 2010, and occasionally the -- there have been very few cases in American history where the public changed its mind so drastically between 2008 and 2010, so they put one group in power here and another group in power there, and there were legitimate differences.

I hate it when people say we're bickering. We're debating the most fundamental issues. Now, we still have to make an effort to overcome it, but where it came from was the American Constitution and the fact that there was on the part of the voters a very drastic swing in their opinion in that two-year period.

KYL: I'm going to agree with Barney on a very important point here. There's nothing wrong with robust debate among different philosophical positions. In fact, if you look at our jury system, the whole idea there is you have a big contest between two sides, and supposedly truth wins out in the end. It's the same thing with the debate in the House and the Senate. You have this robust contest between the liberal and a conservative idea, and eventually something either wins out or some compromise pertains.

So the notion that we should just compromise for the sake of compromising isn't necessarily the right result. And if there is a will, there is usually a way, and sometimes the pressure is just so great that you absolutely have to.

But I'll just close with this. I suspect that none of us at the time that we're coming to a close of our careers, pretty long careers in most cases here, are happy about the situation in which we find ourselves.

CROWLEY: And yet, you're also zen about it. So I am -- let me ask you. Because, you know, this is like, oh, the fiscal cliff is coming, and, oh, my gosh, unemployment is going to skyrocket, and the recession is going to come back. So I'm wondering does it not -- does the heat not feel as intense here, because you're --

FRANK: The fact is, there is no decision maker. If there was a decision maker who was being complacent in the face of this, you should be very critical. But the American Constitution and the American people have put people into a shared power situation who have had very different views.

Now, one thing is different. Maybe I'm being a little (inaudible) here, but it does seem to me that in 2010, some people came to the Congress, particularly in the House, who said compromise is a bad thing. I hope that as the result of the last election, there's going to be less of that, and every one of us has to be prepared to vote for something we don't like.

LIEBERMAN: Since we're talking about the Constitution, I want to go back briefly to George Washington, who in his farewell address warned the future generations of Americans against the danger of political factions to which members of our government would be more loyal than they were to the country. In other words, that they had served their factions more than the common interest. FRANK: I wish, to that point, that everybody would sign a pledge never to sign another pledge, because that is one of the obstacles you're on -- and you say this -- and I have always avoided the pledges. I told people, look, I agree with you 100 percent. I'm going to do everything I can for that, but I can't tell you in a given situation what the trade-offs will be, what the options will be, and I'm not signing a pledge.

LIEBERMAN: Partisanship has gone to extreme here, but even more a word that's come up, the unwillingness to compromise, to approach every issue saying I will not vote for this unless I get 100 percent of what I want. In the end, you get 0 percent.

CROWLEY: Senator, 102 years, more than a century's worth of Capitol Hill experience sitting right here, so I figure you all are pretty good readers of the crystal ball up here. Am I right in reading that you all think we're not going to go off this fiscal cliff? We will come up with something?

HUTCHISON: Yes. I believe we will come up with a way forward. Do I think we're going to do everything by the end of this year? Probably not, but I think we will not have a fiscal cliff. We will have a plan, hopefully, to go forward. We will have a blueprint. And we will set the stage for long-term.

KYL: I think it's likely that there will be a solution that's not a final solution by any means. It's not a big solution. But will get us through the end of the year into next year with a plan for trying to deal with these issues long-term over the course of the next Congress. That will require compromise.

If I could just add one more element to that. This contest of ideas that we talked about I think is critical to come to the right decision. The contest between liberal and conservative ideas, and other ideas in between.

What's harmful is the contest between partisan Republicans and partisan Democrats, and there's a difference between ideologies and pure politics, because when politics intervenes, it creates gotcha situations, votes that can be used in 30-second commercials by one side or the other and results in gridlock. So I think what we need to try to find here is a way to have the debates about policy and get to the point of compromise when possible, but to do as much as we can to keep partisan politics out of the equation.

FRANK: I want to say first, partisanship, I believe, is very important if it's done right. You don't have democracy without parties. It's never been a system -- the problem -- and there are legitimate differences that should be debated.

The problem is when those differences become so embittered that people can't then compromise or come together. But I think partisanship, well-run parties are an important part of it. And I want to say this in terms of -- now I'm going to be a little partisan.

I became chairman of the Financial Services Committee in 2007, and I immediately began to work with Hank Paulson, the Republican secretary of the Treasury and Ben Bernanke, George Bush's appointees, although some of the Republicans would like now to forget that.

We did some work with them, and people forget, in the last months of 2007, George Bush went to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and said, I need, guess what, stimulus, that terrible word. And Pelosi and Reid worked with him to do that, and then in 2008 they came to us. Jon, you and I worked together on the whole question of the response to the financial crisis.

I believe that we had in 2007, 2008, this is not a longstanding problem. A great deal of cooperation with the Bush administration. I do believe that there were elected some people in 2010, Tea Party influence, who repudiated the notion of compromise, and some of them have said it exclusively. So I think partisanship, you have got to start from a position of principle, and then you work together. And I think in 2007 and 2008, we showed how can you do that.

LIEBERMAN: Candy, let me just join in the general hopefulness that we're going to avoid the fiscal cliff, but it's not a done deal. It's not a certainty. The reason is the country -- the government is on automatic pilot to the fiscal cliff, to massive tax increases and really horrible spending cuts on January 1st unless we act. So if Congress does nothing, which Congress has gotten pretty good at doing these days, we'll go over the fiscal cliff. So there's work to be done and compromises to be reached.

CROWLEY: Next, an interesting take on the FBI investigation that ensnared General David Petraeus.

FRANK: I got to say, what surprises me is that these people are still sending emails.


CROWLEY: We have the Petraeus matter going on. And I think my overarching question here, while this works itself out and we find out what actually went on, is, is anyone disturbed by someone going to the FBI and saying, gee, I'm getting these really funky emails, would you look into it, and the FBI looks into the private emails of public people, but looks into the private emails, and then it ends up toppling the head of the CIA?

KYL: Cyber security is a huge problem. If somebody is hacking into the director of the CIA, you need to know that. General Petraeus was the director of the CIA, and there were questions about his e-mail account. The FBI is going to look into that, and they're going to try to determine is something unauthorized happening here?

Now, they stumbled upon something totally different, but to your question, no, I don't feel badly if the FBI is going to make sure that the director of the CIA is not being hacked into in an unauthorized fashion.

FRANK: But, Jon, that wasn't part of the original request. Petraeus, they had found -- they stumbled across the Petraeus issue when she complained there was no mention of Petraeus. I got to say, what surprises me is that these people are still sending emails.

LIEBERMAN: That goes to judgment.

FRANK: Absolutely.

LIEBERMAN: So I will say, I'm talking speculatively here, if these emails to Ms. Kelley in Florida were really threatening, I'm not concerned that the FBI has the capacity to make a baseline judgment, is this a real problem that might do damage to this woman, and, therefore, we ought to at least do a preliminary investigation? I mean, think of that, more and more crimes that have been person to person traditionally are going to be committed over the Internet. I'm glad the FBI has the capacity to investigate it.

HUTCHISON: I'm very worried about this. I'm very worried. I want to know a whole lot more what these first emails really were, and did it really trigger an FBI investigation of the CIA director, and at a low level, and it wasn't raised to a higher level? I mean, if anybody is investigating the director of the CIA, the president of the United States should know immediately, and I feel like A, we don't know enough, and, B, I have great concerns about a lot of this.


KYL: Maybe the way you said it, nobody was investigating the director of the CIA. What they were inquiring into was whether or not somebody had unauthorized access or was taking advantage of access to --

HUTCHISON: It turned into--

KYL: -- the director--

HUTCHISON: -- an investigation of a private life of the CIA director that then brings in another general and --

KYL: Right. So that there could have been --

HUTCHISON: My goodness.

KYL: -- breaches of security, there could have been breaches of the director's private e-mail accounts or public e-mail accounts.

HUTCHISON: But at what level were these decisions being made? I just think there needs to be a whole lot more.

FRANK: Are you suggesting that there was some coverup, that the FBI was playing games? I think we ought to be explicit by this. I'm troubled by the implication of your statement, that--

HUTCHISON: I'm concerned.

FRANK: -- that you are suggesting that something wasn't legitimate here? Because that would trouble me.

HUTCHISON: I'm suggesting that I have great concerns about the legitimacy.

FRANK: You should have -- great concern is kind of a weasel word. I mean, do you think something was--

HUTCHISON: I don't think it's a weasel word. I don't want-- FRANK: I don't trust the FBI to--

HUTCHISON: -- a general who is very high in our military and the CIA director to all of a sudden have this kind of upheaval when it appears that the president didn't know until two months later.

FRANK: What do you mean all of a sudden?

HUTCHISON: Two months later the president --

FRANK: The question, would the FBI stumbled upon it. I mean, it seems to me frankly you're kind of hinting at something bad, and I don't see what that could be.


HUTCHISON: I'm hinting at something out of control and not with the proper authority.

FRANK: I find those kind of implications very troubling. I -- do you trust the FBI, is Mueller lying (ph)? Who are you accusing of not having done the right thing?

HUTCHISON: I've always had great respect for him and great respect for General Petraeus.

FRANK: I do too. So I don't think--


HUTCHISON: I want to know what the sequence was and when top level people were making decisions about --


FRANK: I'll tell you what troubles me to some extent. I think if this was an investigation into David Petraeus's bank account instead of his sex life, all of us would be paying a lot less attention to it. And I'm troubled by the prurience of some of this, and the prominence it's getting -- his privacy doesn't -- shouldn't totally disappear.

CROWLEY: Let me move you on. Do you have a single big question about what went on in Benghazi, or what happened in the aftermath that you think must be answered?

KYL: I think there are questions that have to be answered. Why weren't the warnings about the need for security heeded? Why weren't the requests for help during the terrorist attack answered? And why did the administration think it had to cover up all the things that occurred before by putting out to the American people a narrative that I think will turn out to be absolutely false?

CROWLEY: Congressman, do you have the same concerns--

FRANK: No, I'd like to know the answers. First of all, I do think there's -- I've been, shortly after I got into Congress, 280 Marines were killed in Lebanon on Ronald Reagan's watch, and he said, well, when you are fixing up -- there were delays in the construction.

Bad people do terrible things to Americans. I don't like it when that becomes a source of political dispute. And I had nothing critical to say about the Reagan administration. And these things will happen. There are -- Americans are exposed all over the world because we have decided to be proactive in that way, and it's hard to protect everything.

Given that, yes, I would like to look into it. But as to the narrative, if you (inaudible) saying it was a terrorist attack, that was pretty soon abandoned. I mean, saying that that movie -- so I don't think that there was a prolonged attempt there.

And there is something called the fog of war, the confusion. But I, yes, I would like us to know what happened, so that we can maybe take better account of preventing it in the future.

LIEBERMAN: To me, there are three different kinds of questions about Benghazi. What happened before the attack? What happened during the attack? What was said and decided after the attack?

The most important one to me, as our Homeland Security Committee begins its own inquiry into this, is what happened before the attack? The painful question is, why didn't we provide more security for our mission there in Benghazi? And if we could not do it, maybe we should have closed the mission and taken the people to Tripoli, where they were more safe.

The other thing I think we're going to focus on as this goes on, is I believe that the Defense Department, for instance, tried immediately to get help to our personnel on the ground in Benghazi, but help was far away. And it raises a question about whether the African Command of the U.S. military ought to have more assets and personnel nearby on the ground.

The third part about what happened afterwards is obviously a real concern. I think particularly, in fairness to Ambassador Rice, there ought to be the widest public airing of what led to her statements and others in the administration, particularly obviously if she's going to be nominated for secretary of state or some other high office.

CROWLEY: But that's not an automatic no for you if she were to be nominated.

LIEBERMAN: No, it's not -- no, because, first of all, I think she's had a distinguished career up until now. But secondly, I don't know -- I don't feel that I know exactly what she was told before she went on TV that Sunday morning, and I think we ought to find out before we decide on whether she's a good or bad public servant. CROWLEY: Senator Kyl used the term coverup, correct, in terms of, like, afterwards saying, well, this all had to do with this videotape and it had to do with this, so there was a riot. Turns out there was no riot. It wasn't about the videotape. That was going in Cairo. Do you worry that there's been a coverup?

HUTCHISON: I am very concerned about the fact that on September 11, this happened, and on September 20, the Senate was given a classified briefing, and they were still -- the top level people were still telling us the same thing. They were telling us things that they knew that we even saw in the press were not correct information.

Now, Benghazi was a consulate. It wasn't a full embassy. And I think if we have learned one thing, it is that maybe we should close consulates and give the full protection to our ambassadors who were willing to risk this kind of upheaval. So I do think we need to go into this in depth. I think if there were military people trying to get in and they were being told no, no, no, repeatedly, we need to fix that.

CROWLEY: When we return, congressional gridlock.

LIEBERMAN: In my opinion, the last two years, 2011-2012, have been the least productive and most partisan and uncompromising in my 24 years here.



FRANK: Representatives and senators rarely take each other as role models. There's not a love lost between the branches.


CROWLEY: One of the questions I get all the time when I give speeches, is what is wrong with those people? And I think we discussed it a little bit when we were talking about fiscal cliff, meaning Congress. Why can't they ever do anything? I wanted to ask you all --

FRANK: Oh, I thought you meant the voters who sent us here. Because they're the ones who are in charge.

CROWLEY: Yes, the voters who sent you often ask me why can't they get anything done? And my question to you is, does it seem worse to you now, and what do you consider the good old days?

KYL: Well, Candy, I think there are a couple of things that have contributed to the gridlock that we have now and the over- partisanship. For one thing, the media now have a lot of time to fill. 24-7, cable TV, talk radio. And they like to follow exciting things. Since most of it is political, they want to follow the contest, the fight, the scandal, and that's point No. 1.

So that right after an election, the next election begins. I won't say it's the good old days, but when I first came to Congress, there was about a year after the election in which you legislated. You got together and you passed laws, and the president signed them and so on.

Then by about March or April of the election year, things started to get pretty partisan.

KYL: And for the remainder of the year it was hard to get things done that weren't pretty non-partisan because both sides were trying to hold the other in a political way to some kind of disadvantage.

We've now taken that to almost beginning the week after the election for a total period of two years. And so both parties are trying to set the other party up to make political mistakes and be criticized politically. Media plays along with it because it makes good news.

I don't know what the answer to that is but I think that's part of the reason why it has been much more difficult for Congress to get things accomplished now.

CROWLEY: Do you remember good old days?

FRANK: Yes, well, I'll give you two good old days, 2007 and 2008 because I disagree with this equal weight. And again, tell the voters, if you didn't like these people, why did you vote for them? This effort to analyze this out of the context of the democracy, in part of the problem, I agree with Jon, the way our media is now configured, the most activist elements in our society, on the left and on the right, live in parallel echo chambers.

They only listen to and hear from people who agree with them, whether it's on the Internet or on the talk radio. And so they don't -- they're (INAUDIBLE). But I want to go back, this is not like bipartisanship never existed.

In 2007 the Democrats took over the House and the Senate, and I will tell you there was a great deal of cooperation with George Bush. I was part of it. Hank Paulson asked me to write the preface to his book about the crisis. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi worked with George Bush on a stimulus.

And what happened then was, frankly, I think when Barack Obama got elected, he did not get from the Republicans the degree of cooperation we gave. And when Mitch McConnell said, my number one agenda item is to defeat this president, Harry Reid didn't say that when George Bush came to him and said, have a stimulus.

And so I do not find this plague on both your houses appropriate.

CROWLEY: Right. He did call him a liar and...

(CROSSTALK) FRANK: But he did the...

CROWLEY: Pretty bitter times in there as well. FRANK: But he also worked with him to get a stimulus, worked with him to pass the TARP when he asked us to, worked with them -- that whole period of 2007 and 2008 there was a great deal of cooperation on the areas that I'm familiar with.

CROWLEY: Do you remember good old days?

LIEBERMAN: I do remember good old days. Just to put it in a context, I'll say when I arrived in 1989 from Connecticut, where we have politics, I was surprised at how partisan Congress was.

I saw it in some foreign policy questions where I didn't expect to find it. And I would say over the years Congress has become more partisan, the last two years probably the most partisan and the least productive.

But throughout all of that, a lot of great moments. I mean, in the first -- President Bush 41, remarkable experience where he and George Mitchell, Democratic majority leader, convened a group. We worked for weeks, passed amendments to the Clean Air Act, which have really not only cleaned up the air but enabled people to live longer.

During the '90s, a lot was done under President Clinton: welfare reform, an anti-crime bill, and most significantly when we look back, the balanced budget amendment. And the same was true during the Bush years, very partisan conflict, and yet No Child Left Behind passed.

And although a lot of people have voted for it, somehow forgot they voted for it. The Bush administration's first round of response to the fiscal collapse was broadly supported because it was absolutely necessary.

FRANK: More by Democrats than Republicans.

LIEBERMAN: More by Democrats than Republicans. But in my opinion the last two years, 2011-12, have been the least productive and most partisan and uncompromising in my 24 years here. The public seemed outraged at the status quo that produced so little. And, yet, what results from the election?

HUTCHISON: Status quo.

LIEBERMAN: Democratic president, Democratic Senate, Republican House. So I mean, if anything is going to get done, we've got to change our behavior. And I think the president really has the authority now to set the tone and cajole, convince, charm, occasionally coerce people from both parties to sit down at the table and work out our problems.

CROWLEY: And after the break, the delicate balance between doing the job and working with constituents.


FRANK: He said, hey kid, ain't you heard the news? Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die. (END VIDEO CLIP)


DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Back to Candy and her guests in a moment. But first, I'm Dana Bash with a check of today's headlines.

Protesters and security forces clashed again today in Tahrir Square as resentment grows over what protesters say is a power grab by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. CNN's Reza Sayah is reporting from Cairo -- Reza.

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dana, the demonstrations here in Egypt are starting to spread to places outside of Cairo, according to the interior ministry. Protesters tried to attack the offices of the Muslim Brotherhood in the northern city of Damanhur. That's when Muslim Brotherhood supporters fought back. A number of injuries and arrests there.

But the heart of the protests are still here in Tahrir Square. I'm going to step aside to give you a live look at what Tahrir Square looks like right now, a few thousand people here. They say they're determined to stay here until Mr. Morsi rescinds his controversial decrees.

Those are the peaceful protesters, and the arteries leading into Tahrir. We've had some clashes. They seem to be teenagers, young men. It's hard to say if they're out here fighting for democracy or if they're out here looking for trouble.

In the meantime, opposing factions to Mr. Morsi are mobilizing to add pressure on him. On Saturday a judge's group calling for an all- out judges strike, and also a one million man protest against Mr. Morsi on Tuesday -- Dana.

BASH: Reza Sayah, thank you very much.

And as the truce holds between Hamas and Israel for the fourth day, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he is confident ahead of a bid Thursday at the United Nations seeking status as a non-member observer state.

Now, all of the Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, are supporting the effort. The U.S. and Israel oppose the bid, arguing it would complicate any further peace negotiations.

And lottery officials say nobody has won the Powerball jackpot yet. It has pushed the prize up to $425 million. That's the largest jackpot ever for the game. Powerball is held in 42 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. Wednesday is the next drawing.

BASH: And when we return, disregard for our Congress may be as traditional as pumpkin pie.


HUTCHISON: I think we would have to be ostriches with our heads in the sand if we weren't worried. We need to look at ourselves thoroughly, inside-out. And anyone who is whistling past the graveyard, saying, oh, we need to keep doing what we're doing, we're right, by God, is wrong.


CROWLEY: When you see that Congress's approval rating is at 12 percent or 10 percent or the lowest it has ever been, or whatever it happens to be, is that kind of hurtful to you all? Do you look and say, wait a second, I'm up here beating my head against the wall trying to get stuff done. How do you take that?

HUTCHISON: It's not a personal hurt because I feel like I know I'm doing a good job and I know my constituents know it. It is a disappointment that people would say that in a poll because they're mad about something. And I agree with you in that I think people do like individually the people they're electing. But they don't like what they see in the whole, which is gridlock, but that, again, is because America is also gridlocked.

FRANK: And the people themselves are internally gridlocked. We hear from people, cut the deficit, expand Medicare. We get a very inconsistent set of messages from them. So, no, I don't feel guilty at all, and I don't feel badly. I mean, I think -- I find there's a great commitment to solving the problem, but when it gets to the specifics -- I was in city hall in Boston 44 years ago complaining about people who wanted a swimming pool in a neighborhood and then complaining because the dump trucks were coming in and out digging out the swimming pool and it was bothering them.

And I complained to an old city councilman, Freddie Langone. He said, hey, kid, ain't you heard the news? Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die. I think that's what I get from too many of the constituents. They want us to cut the deficit, but don't raise my taxes and don't cut this and don't cut that and expand this and expand that.

We do our best, and I'm not troubled by our inability to do what some of them want us to do, which is impossible.

CROWLEY: Senator?

KYL: Well, I'm a little troubled sometimes by the thoughtlessness of some people who are quick to criticize anybody without differentiating between those who trying to do their best. But it's hard to argue with the American people generally when they look to Washington and see the mess that we're in right now.

It is also true, as everyone here has said, that to some extent that reflects the will of the American people who want it both ways. But we work for the American people, and they're not devoting their full lives to solving these problems as we are. We are supposed to be better than we are. To that extent they have a good complaint.

LIEBERMAN: You know, it's an American tradition, or a healthy one, to not think too well of Congress. The public attitude towards Congress in the last couple of years has really been historically low. And that does make me feel bad because I think the public is right to have an unfavorable view of what's happening here because we're not getting our work done.

We're not getting the work done that they sent us here to do. What's fascinating about this recent national election is that it looked like for the first time at least in a long time the public would not only be unhappy with congress as an institution, but would actually take it out on their senators and representatives, and by and large, that didn't happen. Incumbents were re-elected.

But I'll tell you, I hope after the next two years that more people than 9 or 10 percent will have a favorable view of the United States Congress.

FRANK: And we'll be watching to make sure they do it right.


CROWLEY: When we return, their most memorable days and not necessarily the best ones.


KYL: Those are days seared in my memory and everyone else who is up here.



CROWLEY: Let me try to do, in our final moment here, some superlatives. But I wanted to see if I could get you to recall your best day up here.

KYL: A lot of good days, and a lot of days that weren't so good. Most memorable day was September 11th, 2001 and several days thereafter. Those are seared in my memory and everyone else who is up here. Very close to the room we're in right now is where I had to hang out during the anthrax scare up here, where we all had to move out of our offices in the Hart Building and locate in a little cubbyhole here in the Capitol. Those aren't good memories, but, nevertheless, they were important events many our history.

CROWLEY: Memorable, best?

FRANK: Well, I'll give you best. For me, and grateful to Joe for his part in this, it was after all these years when we repealed in the lame duck session of 2010 "don't ask/don't tell." When a terribly unfair libelous judgment on me and millions of people like me was abolished, and I think it has worked out well. I worked hard on that. Joe was working hard on it in the Senate. The day that passed in the House was a very good day for me.

LIEBERMAN: Well, interesting, I've been saying to people before that probably the most thrilling moment I had was when "don't ask, don't tell" got repealed. I had the privilege of doing a bunch of other things. Maybe the most satisfying accomplishment was after the 9/11 legislation, which I had the privilege to manage in the Senate, passed, and we reformed, we created the Department of Homeland Security, reformed the intelligence community.

HUTCHISON: Well, the excitement of winning something that you fought for I think is what you're hearing, and mine is that I thought that we were going to lose our American focus on space exploration, manned space exploration. And I teamed up with Senator Bill Nelson from Florida, and we crafted a compromise that allowed commercial crew vehicles to go forward, but not at the expense of the next generation of space flight. And you saw an excitement in space.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Touchdown, confirmed. We're safe on Mars!


HUTCHISON: For the first time in years when that rover landed on Mars at precisely the place it was supposed to land, after being in the air for six months. And I thought, yes, we've done something that is really important in the big sense.

CROWLEY: What will you most miss? Let's say you like many of your colleagues and you'll miss them, but what about this place will you miss?

FRANK: The chance to affect public policy in ways that are important to me. That's the reason I do this. I think that is the reason all of us do it. I will say, I think the public vastly underestimates the legitimacy of the motives of the people who are here. And--

LIEBERMAN: That's correct.

FRANK: And the major motivating factor is what we think is right. I have some strong views about how to make this country, which is both fairer and at the same time productive and efficient, and I will miss the chance to wake up and hear something and say, oh, geez, I've got to do something about that.

KYL: Precisely the same. I mean, that's why most people are here, liberal, conservative. We're here for the same basic reason, and one of the things that -- well, the thing I'll miss the most is having to walk away from a position to have the kind of influence you have in the United States Congress on things that mean a lot to you.

HUTCHISON: It's effectiveness in the macro sense. When I was a practicing lawyer, after I had served in the state legislature for several years, and I was negotiating on whether a comma went in this place or that place. And I thought, you know, I'd rather be talking about mass transit. I'd rather be doing something that I thought would have a big impact and make a difference. And it is why we're here, and it is what we'll miss, because I'm going go back to doing commas and paragraphs, and it won't be the same.

But I also love the people so much. I mean, I love my colleagues. I love the camaraderie. There's a sense that we understand the pressure that we have. Our constituents, the outside groups, the time management pressures. And having other people with the same circumstances is fun and it's invigorating.

CROWLEY: Senator Lieberman?

LIEBERMAN: Well, very similar, you know. A lot of good friendships here. So just allow for that. But it's part of what I'll miss.

The other part is to see a problem, think about how you can help to make it better, submit legislation. Usually finding a cosponsor from the other party, because that's the only way we get anything passed here, and then working it through the process and actually getting it done. That's a thrill.

But I've got to tell you, bottom line, 24 years here, I've been blessing with an opportunity. But you know what? It's time for me to move on to another chapter, and it's time for somebody else to have the privilege of being senator from Connecticut.

FRANK: Some of the most satisfying things are to get people to -- I don't know, Harry Truman said being president meant getting people to do what they would have done in the first place if they had the brains to do it.

CROWLEY: Their post retirement plans next.

HUTCHISON: Being able to say, I'm coming home on Friday and know I'm really coming home on Friday.



LIEBERMAN: Some people have said that if I ran for re-election, it would be a difficult campaign for me. So what else is new?

FRANK: One of the advantages to me of not running for office is, I don't even have to pretend to try to be nice to people I don't like.


CROWLEY: As a final question, complete this sentence. After I retire, I am most looking forward to?

KYL: Having more time to go chop wood up at my cabin.

CROWLEY: Are you going to go chop wood up at his cabin? What would you mostly-- (CROSSTALK)

FRANK: No. I'm mostly looking forward to spending time with Jim. I got married kind of late in life, and it's something I plan to work at full time.

HUTCHISON: I'm looking forward to controlling my own schedule, to being able to say, I'm coming home on Friday and know I'm really coming home on Friday.

LIEBERMAN: I'm looking forward to, if I can say two things, to doing something different.


LIEBERMAN: There are some people who might actually call Al's selection of me an act of chutzpah.


LIEBERMAN: I mean, change is very healthy in life, and to spending a little more time with my family.

CROWLEY: Senator Lieberman, Senator Hutchison, Congressman Frank, Senator Kyl, thank you all so much. Adieu, but we'll see you again down the road. 

Don't Govern on Fantasies
E.J. Dionne · November 10, 2014

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