'This Week' Powerhouse Roundtable

Rep. Justin Amash, Rep. Donna Edwards, Cokie Roberts, Matthew Dowd, and Paul Gigot.
3:00 | 09/15/13

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Transcript for 'This Week' Powerhouse Roundtable
tentative plan to hand over all its chemal weapons to russia. Vladimir putin said, and those weapons better not be gay. "The new york times" published an unusual op-ed piece. It was unusual because it was written by russian president vladimir putin. I like that he thinks we read the op-ed section. Unless he had it published in the crossword puzzle section, 98% of us won't see it. The proposal is not a familiar one. If you run a search on it, google assumes you misspelled it. Not a lot of love for putin from the late-night comics. Let's bring in "the roundtable" to talk about all this. We have matthew dowd and cokie roberts, the editorial page editor of "the what street journal," paul gigot. And from the congress, republican justin amash and democrat donna edwards. You heard the president say, we are in better position than two weeks ago. Is he right? Well, yeah, because there's an agreement between russia and the united states and hopefully syria. I assume that russia has been talking to syria about this. No, not yet. There's conversations going on. The last two weeks one of the most fascinating periods that i have seen for a long time. First of all, we were going to go to war. Then we were not. Then we were going to go to congress for permission. Then we weren't. The president was going to give a talk. The talk was usurped by the discussions going on. The proposals going on. He's about to have all the interviews. And then there's a proposal to get rid of chemical weapons. And all the allies are all topsy-turvy. Some republicans support him going to congress asking for permission. Some are against it. He said it doesn't matter, we ended up in the right place. That's what I'm saying. I'm say iing, in the end -- to me, using a football analogy. Here's a guy that fumbled to the goal line and scored on the goal line and many people are criticizing because he wasn't more efficient or disciplined about a rush on the field. A lot of people feel that way about the cuban missile crisis in retrospect. We didn't know as much at the time. Exactly. Kennedy essentially stumbled toward success. And I think that the big difference here is that we have known every step of the way. Not only did we know every thought that is going on. People are -- it's all in real time. It looks so -- dis -- just disheveled. Congressman, on the substance, some of your fellow republicans harshly condemning independent. Staying thereit's got a look of provocative weakness on our part. Do you agree? I don't agree. Their views are the fringe views increasingly within the republican party. The republican party believes we I think most republicans believe we're in the right spot that at least there is a process where we can get the chemical weapons out of there. We have not achieved success yet. We're avoiding the bombing. People at home don't want us to get involved in a war over there. This is one of the places where the majority of democrats in the house agree with the majority of republicans? That's true. But not all. I think one of the questions i have coming from the left is that we were highly critical of george bush because we didn't think he negotiated enough. Now there's a big criticism of the president because he negotiated, like, a lot, right up until the 11th hour. I think we have to take stock in that. The reason the russians are at the table is because of the threat of force. I think it's unavoidable to come to that -- not to come to that conclusion. To be the dissenter at the table, I don't think we're better off than we were two weeks ago. The president has made himself hostage to putin and assad. We're asked to believe that the man who denied until last week that he had chemical weapons. The man that john kerry called the thug and the murder has fallen off his tank and is suddenly a changed man. He's going to come clean. And vladimir putin, the man who has protected him for two years is going to say, yeah, everything is on the table. How do you see this playing out? He's supposed to come up with a full catalog of his chemical weapons in a week. There are tons of ways to lie about this. Already, russia and the united states don't agree on the weapons syria has. We'll fight about that for awhile. Then we'll fight over the u.N. Resolution. You can hide the weapons. All the while, assad is buying time so that he can escale against the opposition. And the sanction in the proposal is to go back to the united nations and the security council where the russians can veto it. The president said, there's still a possibility of a threat of force if over this period of time until mid 2014, the weapons are not identified, removed, and destroyed. Soy think it's real. I want to put the question to you, congressman amash, that i put to the president. What if, despite all the difficulties on trying to find all the weapons, let's say it goes on for a year, assad keeps the process going, but it strengthens his hold on power. What does that mean? Is that a victory for him and a defeat for the united states? I wouldn't call it a defeat for the united states. It may be a victory for him. At the end of the day, we can't be involved in every civil war around the world. I think the american people feel strongly about that. I was back home, did 11 town halls in two days. I can't tell you how strong the response was in opposition to the war. It was incredible. I have seen nothing like it. Because you were wearing a darth vader t-shirt. I think assad may achieve a victory. But it doesn't mean that the united states has lost. Foreign policy decisions and domestic policy decisions are being affected by two things. Going on around the country. We spent a trillion dollars on a war and lost thousands of lives that ended up with us being no better off in the aftermath of the two years. The country or the world. And two, as of today, the trust in the government's ability to do anything right, foreign policy, domestic policy, is at an all-time low. You put that in a president's hands, he's at a loss to enforce foreign policy. The agreement with russia was the best case scenario for this president. If assad looks at history, now this takes awhile, if he looks at the las places we did this kind of thing, libya and iraq. Gadhafi and hussein are dead. Eventually. Eventually. That would lead him not to give up the weapons. The chances that the president will go back to congress and asking if more sanctions is vanishingly small. The problem is not just that we're washing our hands of assad, it's that his patron, iran, would win. Then you look at the prospect of iran with chemical weapons. The president has reached out personally to the iranian president. Feels there is some opening there. The president is now in the diplomatic maze. Iranian says we can get in the same diplomatic morass. And get some kind of deal. And they, meanwhile, go con to keep marching. Israel has to make a calculation. Can we trust president obama's assurances to protect us? If they can't, they might strike. The history of the civilized world shows no real good example when somebody came in and imposed an external rational on a country and it will succeed. Every single time -- every single time it suck sceeds is because the country itself decided that it was the right thing to do. Nobody is talking about imposing democracy. You're talking about taking out assad. Empowering the rebels. One at a time. Donna? The last thing that the president wanted and I think any of us needed is to take down assad in a state of chaos because there are so many different actors on the ground there. We need somebody to have control of the chemical weapons until they're destroyed or removed. The president saying that was not their goal, regime change. But the use of chemical weapons was a game-changer. The fact that the russians finally came to the table i think makes a huge difference for the president. And our ability to move forward on this. I think iran must look at this and say, you know what, maybe the americans are serious. Maybe they would use force against us. I read that completely differently. I want to switch to domestic policy. Let me bring this to you. The looming showdowns over the potential government shutdown this week. We hit the debt limit on october 18th, I BELIEVE. And you saw the president. I pushed back a few times. He certainly seems to be saying he is not going to negotiate at all over the debt limit despite the precedents. And he's banking, I believe, on republicans in the house falling apart or caving. We have to have compromise. The president himself is arguing that we're not willing to comprom compromise. We are. Part of that is when you want to borrow more money, we have to have some cuts in government. That's all republicans are asking. And we're not talking about draconian cuts. We're talking about delaying obama care for a year. It's something that the president has asked for in employer mandates. So let's delay it for everyone. I think we're doing the president a favor if we delay it. The program is not ready to be implemented. If anything, the president should be asking for us to delay it bauds it's better for him politically. Does he see it as a favor? I don't think so. The fact is, we voted now 41 times to defund obama care. Maybe 42 is a charm. The president is right. We can't negotiate it over the debt ceiling. And we can't be irresponsible the h sin shutting down the government. Speaker boehner has to decide what kind of speaker he wants to be. One that governs and achieves success to get democratic votes to continue govern operations and raise the debt limit or not. He has to turn his back on 50 members of the republican party. Any prospect he'll do that? No, no, not at all. When you go back home and talk to republicans at home, on the grassroots level, they want us to delay obama care, defund it, stop it. No, no, republicans at home on the grassroots level want obama to be gone. It's a visceral reaction against obama that anything his name is attached to, they want gone. I talked to republicans and democrats at home about obama care, it doesn't work. Access to health care is going to go down. Premiums are going up. We need to do something to delay it. What's happening on this issue, the budget issue, is the outcome of president obama's biggest failure. He came to washington, it was polarized, it was divided. He's now going to leave office -- or the last three years of his office, it will be more polarized. More divided. Part of which is from him, part of which is from republicans. He said he was going to fix it. He didn't. Paul, how does the showdown end? The speaker is in a quandary. He was begging democrats to come to the table. It doesn't seem he can get a majority together for anything right now. I think the republicans have forgotten the most important number for them. 218. That's the majority in the house. Without that, they have no leverage. And it's not there now. And it's not there right now. They need to get their act together. If they don't, the senate and the president will have the whip hand and be able to drive policy on them. In the end, they'll end up surrendering. They need to get organized. Is there anything right now on the big issues that can get 218 votes in the house? I think we're working toward it. We've got a deal that -- some of my colleagues have worked at. Tom graves is working to fund the government outside of obama care. Everything outside of obama care. Send it to the senate. Let them negotiate. We'll try to come up with a compromise. You can't start with the democrats want us to start. You have to start with the republican proposal. A republican majority elected by republicans. Let's start with the republican proposal. Matthew, I want to bring another question that I brought to the president to you. Basically 2013 has become a crapper for the president. Everything he's put at the top of the agenda is stalled or failing or in reversal. He kind of deflected it. If you were in the white house, what would you tell him is the best path to salvage this year? I was around the white house at the same point in the presidency, in the aftermath of ka careen that, president bush's job approval dropped to about 43%, 44%. You have congress in a dysfunctional place, where it was when he was president. That was the beginning of the end of president bush's presidency. I think the president is a fan of history. He understands that. He watched it go on with the president. I think that unless the president changes the trajectory, he's on the road to irrelevancy. That's why your last question, the 2016 race, that's why he's fast becoming irrelevant in washington. I think his gamble is to take the house back in 2014. Which I why I think he may want a shutdown. He wants a shutdown? He wants a shutdown because that's the way he can blame it on the republicans. You have to give me the majority. Shutdown but not default. He can't want that. Shutdown. Shutdown the government works for the president. I would have a hard time believing that the president would want that. I would say he's probably not opposed to it. I would have a hard time saying he wants it. Okay. He hopes the republicans are sill will you enough to do it. That's right. That's why he'll hold on to the firm negotiating position. We have to take a break. Thank you all very much. Before we do, more on the devastating floods in colorado. They've taken four lives. Hundreds more may be trapped. Ginger zee is on the ground. Ginger, this has been such a punishing storm. If I reca officials are involved in the largest air rescue since hurricane katrina. I see that river right there is about to breach. Yeah, this is not even the river. This already breached. This is the runoff. The river is a quarter mile back. This is the south platte river. The one they're most concerned about today. Because it's not done rising. We have seen it feet above its record or historic levels. Let me show you, because you have all the runoff, chunks of the road falling apart as we have been here. All of the floodwaters gnawing away at parts of colorado. The rescues really are the part that are so dramatic. Yesterday, we saw some of them. We met people evacuating their homes. I want to show you the pictures of those dramatic rescues. Students in the mountains, air-lifted out. Rescues of the horses. Because it's not just the people that are stuck. This is a lot of farmland out here. Farms completely ruined. Everything that they had. We're hearing a lot of that here in morgan county. This has been watching the rivers rise. And go into people's homes is painful. That's where we are at with flood watches and warnings around. The president declared a disaster zone overnight. Yet there's more rain coming. Right. We get another 1 to 3 inches widespread today. That's something we have not seen for the last 36 hours. More rain, not only today into early tomorrow. Finally drying out by tuesday. Okay, ginger zee.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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