<i>FTN</i> Transcript - Jan. 21

face the nation logo, 2009

Bob Schieffer, CBS
News Chief Washington Correspondent:
Today on Face The Nation, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, plus a roundtable of those who have been there and done that. George Bush spent his first night at the White House, but now he goes to work and where does he start? That's what we'll talk about with Andy Card.

Then we'll talk about the perils and opportunities of the first 100 days of a presidency with the men who have served five of Bush's predecessors: Reagan's chief of staff, Howard Baker; Clinton's chief, Leon Panetta; Jimmy Carter's top aide, Hamilton Jordan; Marlin Fitzwater, press secretary to the new president's father; and Ron Zieglar, who spoke for Richard Nixon. Gloria Borger's here, and I'll have a final thought on a very good idea.

But first, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card.

Announcer: Face The Nation with Chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer. And now from CBS News in Washington, Bob Schieffer.

Schieffer: And we begin this morning with the new White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card. Mr. Card, thank you for coming. I hope we'll see you many times. We want to start this morning with a little news. We have learned that Texas Senator Phil Gramm, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, has and will announce tomorrow on the Senate floor that he is sponsoring President Bush's tax cut proposals, that's the 10-year, $1.6 trillion plan that President Bush talked about during the campaign.

More importantly, perhaps, we've learned that Senator Gramm has found a Democratic co-sponsor, Georgia Senator Zell Miller.

Mr. Card, what can you tell us about that?

Andrew Card, White House chief of staff: Well, first of all, I did not know that Senator Gramm was going to do this, but I'm not surprised because he has been an ardent supporter of the tax plan that President Bush supports and wants to initiate.

The top priority for this week for the Bush administration will be our education reform plan. We will be presenting that to Congress this week as well, and it's an education package that we hope will provide for meaningful measurement of education with accountability. We want no child to be left behind, and our secretary of education, Rod Paige will take that as a charge that he's going to drive throughout government.

Schieffer: Let me ask you, though, but having a Democrat announce this early that he's going to co-sponsor this, I would think that's significant.

Card: That's great news. Clearly this tax plan is something that we support. We want to see meaningful tax reform, and we want to see tax cuts for all Americans. It's a $1.3 trillion tax cut plan that the president supports and we'll be putting forward, and I'm thrilled if Senator Gramm has found a Democratic co-sponsor.

We expect a lot of Democrats to support our plan because it's the right thing for America.

Schieffer:In the end, will you still push for the entire plan? Won't you...

Card: Absolutely.

Schieffer: You're going to have to scale it back a little, aren't you?

Card: No. This is a tax cut plan for America, and it's going to be across the board so every American can benefit, and we think it's the right thing to do not only to stimulate the economy, but most importantly, to offer a little more confidence to consumers.

Gloria Borger, U.S. News and World Report: Very quickly on your education package that you mentioned, it does include proposals for school vouchers. Your own education secretary has said that vouchers are not a priority. Are they?

Card: He said the right thing. The top priority is leaving no child behind. We want accountability in the system, and we want schools to recognize they have a responsibility to teach students. And if they're not teaching students, we'll find out, and then at some point, we may have to find other alternatives where students can learn, and that's where a system of scholarships might come in to provide students an opportunity to move to a different school.

Borger: So are you saying now that in fact vouchers are a negotiable item?

Card: No, vouchers are very important. Let's put it this way. Scholarships that allow students to get a good education are important, but first we want to measure the progress that the schools are teaching our students, we want to hold them accountable for the progress, we want to hold the schools accountable for teaching the young people in America. And if they're not doing a good job, we'll find other alternatives. One of them might be vouchers.

Schieffer: Mr. Card, Bill Clinton spent this last couple of days issuing a blizzard of executive orders, regulations, yesterday, for example, announcing that he would make Governor's Island in New York a national park, or whatever it is. What are you - what will this administration do about those? Will all these things be left standing?

Card: Well first of all, yesterday the president instructed me to issue a memorandum to all of the departments and agencies saying: Just take a break for a minute. Step back and let's take a look at all the regulations that are in the pipeline. If they haven't been published in the federal register yet, we want to take a look at them to see if they're appropriate for America.

So right now, we have instructed everyone to step back, take a look at what has happened over the last several days to find out what is right for America, and we'll consider things there.

Borger: Are you going to revoke approval of RU-486, the abortion pill?

Card: We're going to take a look at all of the regulations. We're going to take a look at all of the executive orders. We are going to be responsible about it. This is not a knee-jerk reaction to undo. Instead, it is a responsible review of what hs happened, and we will take responsible action if we think it should be different than what...

Borger: But you are reviewing that?

Card: We are reviewing everything, yes.

Schieffer: What did you think about President Clinton's decision to make a long speech yesterday as he left? Generally, presidents leave and they sort of go quietly. What was your reaction to that?

Card: Well, the speech of the day was the inaugural address, and I thought President Bush did a phenomenal job addressing the country. It was a great speech. It was short enough for us all to pay attention to, but it was substantive enough for us to listen to and take into our heart and soul and see how we want to become better citizens. And I think that was the most important speech yesterday.

Borger: Very quickly, the president is going to meet with John McCain on Wednesday to talk about campaign finance reform.

Card: And other issues.

Borger: And other issues. Do you see any way in which the president could sign on to John McCain's bill if McCain, say, puts in paycheck protection?

Card: Well, paycheck protection is an important ingredient for a successful campaign finance reform measure. President Bush does support campaign finance reform as long as it's done fairly and is reflective of the value that we have in paycheck protection. So we'll be looking with an open mind towards campaign finance reform.

I don't want to mislead you. The top priority is education. We will also be talking about community and faith-based opportunity that comes in America and tax reform and military readiness. So, we have a lot of priorities that would come before campaign finance reform, but we do respect the leadership that John McCain has offered in this area.

Schieffer: We are going to let you go because we know you have a very busy day. Good luck.

Card: Thank you very much.

Schieffer: Best wishes. Hope to see you again.

Card: Thank you, Bob.

Schieffer: And joining us now from Atlanta, Georgia, the former Nixon press secretary, Ron Ziegler; the former Carter chief of staff, Hamilton Jordan; in Monterey, California, former Clinton Chief of Staff Leon Panetta; and here, as if by magic, in the same seats where Gloria and Andy Card were sitting just seconds ago, Reagan Chief of Staff Howard Baker; and the man who served as press secretary to President Bush's father, Marlin Fitzwater.

Actually, I'll confess. We taped the interview with Andy Card just a little bit ago because he had a good excuse. He asked if he could do it early so he could go to church.

Gentlemen, welcome to all of you. And to those who may be asking, "Why no one from the Ford White House?", well, Mr. Ford's chief of staff was sworn in yesterday as vice president. Ron Ziegler, first to you. You served a president who started out very well, started off fast and, o course, ended in the worst possible way. What advice do you have for the new folks in town?

Ron Ziegler, former Nixon press secretary: Well, I think they focus on bringing together a very diverse Cabinet and the thought of the diverse Cabinet and simply get moving. It all starts Monday morning when President Bush comes down the elevator from the residence and walks over to the Oval Office, and the spark then begins in the White House.

I think that they're getting off to a very aggressive start, as we heard earlier, and I'm optimistic. I think President Bush is handling himself very well. And I think this is one of the strongest, most diverse Cabinets we've had for a long time.

Schieffer: Hamilton Jordan, the president you served got off to a terrible start, if memory serves. Things got a little better along the way, but it was a bad start. What would you say was the mistake you all made?

Hamilton Jordan, former Carter chief of staff: Well, I remember that, Bob. We tried to do too many things simultaneously. And I think President Bush is served well by this team of people who have been there before.

I have a sense, as well, that after President and Mrs. Clinton stirred such raw emotions in our country, pro and con, I have a sense that President and Mrs. Bush are going to wear well with the American people. So I think he's off to a very good start.

Schieffer: Marlin Fitzwater, it strikes me that this president starts in a different way than other presidents, certainly the president you served - one difference being that the outgoing president is going to live here in town, and as we all saw yesterday, apparently, he's not going to go quietly. He made this rather out-of-the-ordinary, long speech, talking about his accomplishments out there at Andrews Air Force Base. Most of the time, presidents who leave sort of leave Inauguration Day to the new man.

Marlin Fitzwater, former Bush press secretary: Well, I thought he looked yesterday a little like he was entering the witness protection program. He knew he had to do it, but he was not happy about going. I think he'll be back and be wanting to participate. I wouldn't be surprised to see him doing interviews, and we'll see him all over the place.

Schieffer: How does the president deal with that? Or does he?

Fitzwater: Well, he has to ignore some of it because you can get caught up in a debate with your predecessor. I think President Clinton will observe some decorum, at least for the first month or two.

Schieffer: Howard Baker, should this president act as if he has a mandate, because, after all, he came here under very unusual circumstances, what John Quincy Adams, who came to power in a very similar circumstance, called a peculiar situation?

Howard Baker, former Reagan chief of staff and former U.S. senator: Well, of course he should exercise his mandate. He has a mandate. He is presient. We had the most solemn of all our political celebrations yesterday, and he is now president of the United States and the country accepts that.

I've not seen any specific poll results, but in the nature of things, I am certain that the American people think of George W. Bush as the president of the United States and have conferred on him already the authority, the prestige, and the respect that goes with that.

He also inherits the controversy and the disagreements. But I think he is fully vested with the authority of the office, and I don't worry one minute about that.

Schieffer: Leon Panetta, what do you believe is the first thing that the new president ought to do to get off to a good start?

Leon Panetta, former Clinton chief of staff and former congressman: The first thing he's got to do is stay very focused on what he would like to accomplish. He said it pretty well yesterday, not so much at the inaugural, but at the speech at the lunch, where he said they're aren't a lot of expectations here. Washington's been in gridlock for a long time; we came out of a very close and disputed election. The American people are not particularly are not expecting an awful lot.

I think the most important thing for this president to do is to focus on trying to get some things done, limited things done, over these next 100 days. If he can get education reform accomplished, if he could do something on campaign reform in a bipartisan way, then that could send a very important signal to the American people that he's going to try to get things done.

Schieffer: Well, do you think it would be a mistake for him to push this voucher issue, which, of course, is the most controversial part of his education plan?

Panetta: I think it would be a mistake if he pushed the tax cut bill up front - at one point, $3 trillion. I think that would be very controversial as something to get off the starting blocks with. I think if he pushed vouchers--he knows and has commented that vouchers are a controversial element. And if he sets those aside or is able to then negotiate something on education reform with the Democrats, that's what people are going to be looking for.

Look, bipartisanship doesn't just fall from the skies. It doesn't blossom on its own. It's going to take some very hard work, and the real question is, is he willing to take the risk of confronting his own leadership to get that done.

Schieffer: All right. Let's talk about that bipartisanship. Let's take a break here, and when we come back, that's one of the things we will discuss, in a minute.


Schieffer: Back now with our distinguished roundtable. This administration comes to Washington as a very tightly knit group of people. They exercised very careful control on what was said and what was not said throughout the campaign.

Let's go back to Atlanta. Ron Ziegler, can an administration - youadministration, too, was very concerned with what information got out. Can an administration really control the news?

Ziegler: No. I think the only statement that I've heard that gave a negative spark to me was the fact that Ari Fleischer was not going to receive all of the information from President Bush, so that he would not be in the position to comment if he did not know. I think that's a mistake.

I think they will find that the press secretary has to have total contact and total involvement with the president and what's going on, in terms of policy. I believe open communications, which we showed, is extremely important, and if there is not a negative mindset relevant to communications through the press, then they can accomplish a great deal.

But I was concerned about that statement. I think Ari Fleischer has to have total access to the Oval Office.

Schieffer: Ham Jordan, your administration leaked like an old inner tube, if memory serves.


What do you think? Can you control it? And how do you get your message out and make sure people sell the programs the president's trying to sell?

Jordan: Well, Republicans tend to control it too much, and Democrats tend to provide too much information. Again, I think the idea is to have publicly understood priorities and stick to those messages. But as Ron says, you can't control the media or the agenda.

I mean, this whole issue of energy in California, for example, was something that was not even on the radar 30 days ago. It's going to be a huge issue for discussion in this country and by our president.

So you've got to have a public agenda, and you've got to stick to it. And I think, frankly, because of people like Vice President Cheney and Andrew Card having been there, my guess is they'll do a good job with that.

Schieffer: Howard Baker, with an administration with very strong Cabinet officers, especially at the top, as this one has, how does a White House chief of staff act as a broker? I mean, how is Andy Card going to stand between Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld, who are very, very strong men, who bring their own constituencies to Washington?

Baker: It really is too early to tell, because the chief of staff is really not a statutory job. The chief of staff has no specific powers, only those powers and responsibilities that the president gives him.

So if the president commissions Andy Card to stand between Colin Powell and Don Rumsfeld, for instance, then Andy will have the clout to do that. But absent that, Andy won't, and good judgment would suggest that he shouldn't.

The chief of staff is not president. Ronald Reagan told me that one time. He said, "Just remember, I am president, and you're not.'' And it was a point well taken. But the chief of staff is not secretary of anything. He has Cabinet rank, I suppose; they usually do. But he is the point man for the president, and it epends on what the president wants him to do at any given moment.

Schieffer: Well, the vice president is not president either, as we all know. But yet, we have seen, so far at least, what appears to be a vice president with a real job. Marlin Fitzwater, is there friction between a president and vice president, and can this really last? Can all this be delegated to the vice president without the president somehow looking like he's kind of out there on the fringe?

Fitzwater: Well, historically, there's always been differences and frustrations between the two staffs, if not between the two principals. But one of the big differences here is, nobody thinks Dick Cheney has ambitions to become president, and we haven't had a vice president like that in a long time. So if he's fully on board as the manager, and the president assigns him that role and likes it, there's no reason why it can't work.

Baker: Can I add to that?

Schieffer: Sure.

Baker: I think that's extraordinarily important. It is true, I believe, that Dick Cheney has no ambition beyond where he is now. It's the capstone of his public career. He can be enormously valuable to this president, and I'm sure he will be.

But it is unique that we have a vice president who is there as vice president and president of the Senate. I think it will be enormously important to President Bush and to the country that he take on these additional responsibilities.

Schieffer: You know, another interesting point here, and one that I notice in talking to senators now. They want Vice President Cheney to be there and vote. They don't want him to pass himself off as another senator. Trent Lott intends to be the leader of the Republicans. Tom Daschle intends to be the leader of the Democrats, because that's how the Senate works.

Baker: And for a brief moment, Nelson Rockefeller tried to be a part of the Senate when he was vice president and to try to corral votes and he got shot down. He really did. But you don't have to go on the floor and to try to corral votes to be important...

Schieffer: He can't go on the floor, can he?

Baker: Oh, he can go on the floor.

Schieffer: Well, I guess a former member of the House.

Baker: But the vice president is the president's point man in the Senate, if he chooses to be. He'll do it off the floor and in his office, but he is the most potent force that a president has, if he chooses to do that, and I think Cheney may.

Schieffer: Leon Panetta, you were a member of Congress before you were a head of the office of management and budget and later the chief of staff for Bill Clinton, talk a little bit about this whole deal of a 50-50 Senate and this narrow majority over in the House. It seems to me that it is going to be impossible for this president to do anything, and I mean that literally, anything, unless he has some Democratic hel.

Panetta: Well, there's no question that, you know, if he decides that he's going to push a partisan agenda, which he certainly hasn't said would be the case, then he clearly has to work with Democrats.

And so, the real challenge will be: How do you build coalitions to pass legislation? That's the whole nature of the Congress. He doesn't have enough votes to simply slam dunk his own agenda.

So he's going to have to figure out, "Where do I build coalitions? Do I go to the conservative Democrats? Do I try to negotiate with moderate Democrats? Do I try to include moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats as a coalition?"

He's going to have to be able to build that kind of consensus, because that's the nature of the Congress. You simply cannot propose legislation and think that somehow it's going to pass by itself. He's going to have to roll up his sleeves and be able to take the risks that I talk about of a leader.

Schieffer: Let me also, there's one thing I definitely want to ask Ron Ziegler here. Of course, the pardon that Gerald Ford gave to Richard Nixon, many people believe probably cost him an election in his own right. It seems to me what the independent counsel did this week, in working out this deal where Bill Clinton will not be indicted and they won't pursue that, is a real gift to George Bush. What is your take on that?

Ziegler: Well, I think it's better off to put these things behind us. I think the Ford pardon of President Nixon put that aside and let the country move forward. I think this pardon was a very good pardon, and so we move onward, and I think the American people support that. I don't really believe that Ford lost the presidency because of the pardon. I think it had a negative impact on his presidency, but it was a different time then. You know, we had many different issues existing at that time.

Schieffer: Let me just go around quickly. Marlin Fitzwater, what do you think of that and what impact will that have?

Fitzwater: I think it's good for President Bush. He doesn't have to deal with the pardon, he doesn't have to deal with charges, indictments, any proceedings. It cleans all that up and he can start new and not worry about it.

Schieffer: Ham Jordan, if you had one piece of advice, what would it be?

Jordan: Related to the pardon?

Schieffer: To anything.

Jordan: That was good for the country, I think. Focus on a few things and I think my sense is they're going to do that.

Schieffer: Howard Baker, about 20 seconds.

Baker: It was good. It was the right thing to do. I do not think it wipes the slate clean as far as public perception, Bill Clinton, is concerned, but it was the right decision.

Schieffer: And what would you advise if you had one thing to say to him?

Baker: Oh, I would advise him to take advantage of this split in the Congress. I thik it gives you opportunities, not just dangers.

Schieffer: All right, thanks to all of you, this was a lot of fun. We'll be back with a final word in just a minute.


Schieffer: Finally today, when George Bush swore to uphold and defend the Constitution yesterday, I turned to Dan Rather and said on television: Well, we have a new president. It's as simple as that.

Easy to say, but how remarkable that we are able to say it. Thomas Paine saw the American Revolution as inevitable. He said, "No island could rule a continent for very long."

But in his fine new book, The Founding Brothers, historian Joseph Ellis reminds us there have been many revolutions since ours, but until ours, no people had ever broken away from a colonial power. Nor had there ever been anything like the office of the president they created, a sovereign with the combined powers of king, prime minister and army commander who was accountable to the people. It was an office designed for George Washington. And perhaps only Washington, the great war hero, commanded the respect to make it work in that fragile time.

But the founders were not just idealists who put their faith in one highly regarded man. They were also practical politicians who understood human nature and the corrupting influence of power. They admired but did not always trust each other, even Washington. They were not about to replace one king with another. And so they created the ingenious system of checks and balances. The system they created remains today virtually unchanged.

Yes, we have a new president. But what happened yesterday, what we have come to take for granted, was really no simple thing. It was magnificent.
That's our report. We'll see you next week right here on Face The Nation.