STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about President Obama's NSA reforms, the National Security Agency reforms he announced on Friday. I know you attended the president's speech on Friday. You support the programs. You think they've done good for the United States.
Any objections to what the president proposed?
MCCAUL: Well, listen, I -- I think what he did was, for the first time explain these programs and defend them. I think meta data, most significantly, will not be dismantled, but rather will be put in the hands of an outside, third party. I think what gave most Americans heartburn was that this data was being stored under the NSA and warehoused under the government and this administration, who, you know, quite frankly, has some trust issues.
So I think -- I think, you know, he's moving in the right direction.
I will say, one of the other problems, George, is oversight. I have a bill that is just introduced with Adam Schiff, who's on the Intelligence Committee, to provide the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of the Congress, oversight and review authority of these programs. They have never been allowed access to these NSA programs.
Why is that important?
Because members of Congress are pretty much in the dark on these programs. This will allow these programs and a review of them to come more to light, if you will, and be more transparent, so that the policy-maker will have the information necessary to review them and make the right judgment call.
I think that right now, the oversight is very marginal, at best. And I think this bill will go a long ways to shining a light on these programs so members can have a better informed, better decision to make.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So are you confident, then, the president will be able to come up with a way to house these -- this data outside of the government?
It's going to be very difficult, and that's why he's had to put it off for 60 days and have the attorney general look at it.
MCCAUL: Well, you know, George, you're exactly right. When I was listening to the speech, I -- I thought to myself, you know, when I was doing these types of warrants, we went to the private phone carriers. We know that the private phone carriers don't want to handle this now. So I think that's going to be a real issue, in terms of who has the capability, other than the NSA, to handle this information?
And particularly given the fact that the phone carriers don't want this?
So I think the attorney general is going to have a very difficult decision to make here and he's going to report to the Congress in 60 days. And we will be reviewing that decision.
But I think it's very difficult to decide who has the capability to store and use this data.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman McCaul, thanks very much for your time today.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- is coming right up, taking on President Obama's changes to the NSA we just heard about and the newest charges against Chris Christie.
And later, the Olympic uproar over Russia's anti-gay propaganda laws. More from President Putin and Billie Jean King.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMY ROBACH: What would you say to Putin?
BILLIE JEAN KING: To Putin?
AMY ROBACH: Yes.
KING: Please change this law.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And when we come back, a tough Senate report on the Benghazi attacks.
What's the fallout for Hillary Clinton?
Plus new questions for Chris Christie on Hurricane Sandy aid.
The roundtable weighs in on all the week's politics, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And critics are right to point out that without proper safeguards, this type of program could be used to yield more information about our private lives and open the door to more intrusive bulk collection programs.
For all these reasons, I believe we need a new approach.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
STEPHANOPOULOS: That was President Obama on Friday, saying this NSA program, as we know it now, will end. He called for a lot of reforms.
Let's talk about it now on our roundtable, joined by James Carville and Mary Matalin, out with a new book, "Love and War" -- I like this -- "Twenty Years, Three Presidents, Two Daughters and one Louisiana Home."
STEPHANOPOULOS: David Remnick, editor of "The New Yorker" magazine. We're going to be talking about your profile of President Obama. You spent many hours with him. Coming up in THIS WEEK'S "New Yorker."
Peggy Noonan of "The Wall Street Journal."
And Tavis Smiley of "The Tavis Smiley Show."
And, Peggy, let's begin with this -- these NSA reforms.
The president said he wanted some reforms, but, also defended the programs, said they'd been valuable.
Did he strike the right balance?
PEGGY NOONAN, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Oh, I think he -- I think he sounded like a political figure attempting to strike the right balance, to deal with a political problem he has among his base and among some others. For NSA, in the past six months or so, since Snowden, the president has come under criticism. He's had various responses to that, from there's nothing wrong with NSA, to, well, I guess we ought to be thinking about NSA.
I think the speech ultimately was unsatisfying because it did not say -- the president said, essentially, he's handling a problem, but it didn't say we are rethinking...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But (INAUDIBLE)...
NOONAN: -- this national security state we've been...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that's what I want to get...
NOONAN: -- in since 9/11.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's what I want to get to, because he actually cite -- has said this state has been kind of valuable. He said that in the speech.
But, James, one of the things we saw there is that even though he called for the reforms, he didn't really get specific on it. The attorney general is supposed to...
JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Right.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- come up with a plan to get rid of the bulk collection programs. The courts are supposed to...
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- look at this whole issue of privacy -- privacy advocates. These -- and it just shows how complex...
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- these problems are.
CARVILLE: The truth of the matter is he thinks this program is effective. And it's become a little bit of a political football, so he had a -- a press conference and put some things in it, which, by the way, some privacy advocates say there's some decent stuff that was put in there.
And I kind of agree with his position. I -- I'm -- I mean I think I'm a good Democrat and whatever. But I think some of this stuff -- there's some dangerous people out there in the world and if you can make this stuff a little bit safer, which is apparently what he's trying to do, maybe that's a good thing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, David, one of the things he addressed in -- even in the speech is that his own evolution on these issues as commander-in-chief.
DAVID REMNICK, EDITOR, "THE NEW YORKER": Well, when -- when he was in the Senate, he was highly against this kind of thing. And he spoke out against it as -- as a Democrat in the Senate. And I think the responsibilities of, and the perspective of -- of the president, he's trying to impress upon us, are radically different, because he's responsible for something completely -- completely other, which is the security of the United States.
Look, he's -- he's in a tough position.
How did this information come out?
It came out through a leaker within the NSA, through Edward Snowden. He is no position and he's not going to defend the quote, unquote, sinner. But the actual sin, if you want to call it that, the actual information has undeniably changed the conversation about national security and the NSA in general.
And I think there's a lot of good in that, a lot of good in that. And Obama begrudgingly has to say the same.
So he's walking a very fine tightrope.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, except, Mary Matalin, he says it doesn't justify what Edward Snowden did.
MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No, it doesn't. But I -- he -- I love what you just said, that he was against it before he was for it. Now, Barack Obama is Dick Cheney -- we need these policies, they are necessary for our security.
The reason he's having a political problem and why it's (INAUDIBLE) is because of, one, trust. The -- the nation has a problem trusting this government with personal data on account of the IRS tracking opponents of the president, health care rollout incompetence or just in general, identity theft over Christmas.
We don't think we have control over this technology that's going to protect our privacy. That's why this is a hard political issue.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Travis, I know you don't agree that Barack Obama...
TAVIS SMILEY, HOST, "THE TAVIS SMILEY SHOW: Obama is Dick Cheney.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- so radically wrong.
SMILEY: I don't agree with that. But here's what I do believe, that tomorrow, it's worth reminding the audience that we will celebrate the life and legacy of the person I regard as the greatest American this country has ever produced. That's my assessment, Martin Luther King, Jr.. He is the quintessential example of what it means to be forced to live under a surveillance state.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president talked about that in his speech.
SMILEY: Exactly. And so when I knew the president was going to give this speech on Friday, I started to wonder what that bust of Dr. King in the Oval Office might be whispering to the president as he was fine-tuning his speech Thursday night.
When I saw the Friday speech, like Peggy, I was somewhat underwhelmed. I understand, David, what he's up against. But I sometimes wonder that this president, I sometimes think, rather, that he is too cautious when he ought to be a bit more of a contrarian, particularly when a federal judge has said that part of this bulk collection is unconstitutional. And secondly, when you can't convince me how the dots connect to make us safer.
I think, very quickly, that in the long run, Edward Snowden -- we were joking earlier -- Edward Snowden might be on a postage stamp somewhere down the road. Edward Snowden is going to be acknowledged one day. He's going to be appreciated. How history is going to regarding what Mr. Obama has done in this moment is an open question.
REMNICK: The historical analogy between Dick Cheney and, with respect, and Barack Obama, is -- is absurd. I mean this is -- this is a president who's withdrawn from two wars. This is a president who is constantly talking about the balance between, whether you agree with him or not, between a security state, which came after 9/11, and keeping the country secure and civil liberties.
And he's struggled with this flagrantly, maybe even ostentatiously, on the subject of drones and the rest. And things have changed. Maybe too much on the margins for -- for me or for Travis. Maybe not enough for others. But this is -- to call it Dick Cheney, I...
MATALIN: With equal respect...
REMNICK: -- I can't agree at all.
MATALIN: -- he -- he demonized Dick Cheney. He opposed all of these security policies. And he's now making the same point that Dick Cheney made repeatedly, which is the bad guys have to be right only 1 percent of the time, we have to be right 100 percent of the time. This is not the only policy, you know, they're not Dick Cheney policies, but post-9/11 security policies that he opposed and now supports.
SMILEY: -- to see, George, that while -- while I think Mary is wrong, especially that he is no Dick Cheney, I don't believe that. But it is the case that President Obama, for too many of us, has continued the Bush-Cheney policies on a lot of issues, particularly foreign policy. And this is much more about marginal retrenchment than it is about major reform.
CARVILLE: Look, there -- there's a piece coming out in "The New Republic" later today about (INAUDIBLE). And Edward Snowden, I mean, you think he might be on a postage stamp?
CARVILLE: I think he might get in the post office, but it's going to be...
NOONAN: The most wanted man.
CARVILLE: Yes. I mean...
NOONAN: The most wanted.
CARVILLE: -- I don't know who's...
SMILEY: We'll see. We'll see in 25 years.
CARVILLE: Twenty-five years?
In 25 years, we'll see...
REMNICK: It would be nice to have some evidence about him. I mean, to see members of Congress come out and say that Edward Snowden was a tool of Russia from the get-go, that this was all a Russian operation, I worry about congressmen getting on the air and saying this without presenting any evidence whatsoever.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I mean, it happened twice in the last several days.
NOONAN: Can I note the whole NSA thing, when it started to break, a former U.S. senator, a very sober and serious man, called me up and he said if what we are reading is true about what the U.S. government can do to you, how it can, has the ability to invade your privacy, he said people are going to know this, they're going to get used to it and we're going to become a nation of sullen paranoids.
The big unanswered question is have we -- how do you keep America safe after 9/11, not have another 9/11 without not becoming not-America, without becoming un-American and not the thing we want to protect. You know what I mean? This is a big question. I don't think the president seriously addressed it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But I think it clearly showed that I think he's struggling with just that question.
NOONAN: Well, he's struggling, he's struggling...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Even if he doesn't have the answers just yet.
That does bring me to David's big piece. He spent several hours with the president over the last few months with his piece in the New Yorker this week called going the distance. There's a lot that you want there.
But one of the scenes that I was struck with you go back to a time was -- I guess it was 2007, he's a senator. He's meeting with Doris Kearns Goodwin and her husband Richard Goodwin, and he tells them he doesn't want to just be one of those presidents with his picture up on the wall, another Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce. And you said out in the piece that that's really the test, is he going to meet his own standard?
REMNICK: Well, his own standard -- and Tavis and I will argue about this, too, but I think that he's got -- William Daley told my colleague Brian Lisivet (ph) after 2014 no one cares what Obama does because the race for the successor begins to consume all the media air time and all our energies, maybe to a great fault of the media. And that's partly true.
I mean, things can happen a lot after that -- those mid-term elections. But this year is crucial and last year was awful, awful. And the healthcare rollout was a self-inflicted wound.
And I -- you know, I traveled with the president on one of these fundraising tours of the west coast and at each stop, he had to kind of perform his anger about what had happened. He had to show how -- and that's not easy for him, anger is not one of his go-to emotions. And he's got a lot that he wants to get done, whether it's about income inequality or about foreign policy, he has three huge foreign policy initiatives that have a less than 50/50 chance of succeeding even in his terms.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that's what it seems like in the piece, he seems aware of that, aware of the limits of his power, what's the analogy he uses. He's just -- like all president, he's just a relay runner in the race.
REMNICK: Well, it's an unusual thing to hear a president sitting in office admit to the limits of power. And this is a habit of mine to Barack Obama, whether it has to do with the limits of power of the United States in the Middle East, which we're not used to hearing. We really -- we usually talk in grandiose terms -- or whether it's the limits of power with the president himself.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And James, how much is the talk about the limits of power actually reduce his power?
CARVILLE: Oh, I don't know. But we can't go in the Middle East and do the things we do. We can't -- you know, there was a day when Germany and Japan, our two biggest threats were vanquished, you know what I mean, we had a much more of a say (inaudible).
I don't think the American people are very anxious to go in and start dictating to people around the world on what they should do. I think (inaudible) is, hey, you fellows, you all figure stuff out over there, we're not going to get in the middle of it. And so I -- I think -- and also it's not just in the world, but I think in the United States there's a realization that there's some thing that we can do and some things we can't do and let's be careful here.
But I don't know if we want to return to like running the world.
SMILEY: I read David's piece last night --I thought it was a good piece, David -- but I think that the ultimate question is going to be here, how did he measure up as a leader? Did he get accomplished the things he said he wanted to get done.
My grandfather always said to me, Tavis, it's not about the work you do, it's about the work you get done. And I just don't know that the historical narrative that he wants is that it could have been worse. I don't think that's a winning storyline. And ultimately it's about did he get done what he said he was going to do? And I think that's an open question.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But Peggy Noon, if healthcare works he did.
NOONAN: OK, well -- that's...
NOONAN: Thank you very much, healthcare is not going to work, it's going to haunt him over at least the next two years, certainly in the coming year for the 10 reasons people like us always recite on talk shows.
But can I ask a question of David, I found I was fascinated by your piece. I found the president in the piece to be somewhat passive, somewhat thoughtful, smart, but going through the motions. You were with him I think three days. He's at fundraisers where he's handling rich people and he's playing cards on the plane.
I'll tell you the portrait struck me as, well, we don't have enough problems biggest man to be doing active and serious things while David Remnick is with him?
REMNICK: I think that's an odd reading...
REMNICK: I think all modern presidents raise funds for their party, that happens. I think George Bush did it, Bill Clinton did it. There's a mid-term election in the offing.
NOONAN: It just seemed a lot.
REMNICK: No, no. In the meantime, a government shutdown by the Republicans canceled an essential trip to Asia that had to be rescheduled, an essential trip to half the important nations in Asia was canceled completely by a Republican shutdown.
NOONAN: ..sense of philosophically accepting of non-success?
MATALIN: I think what was revelatory. I take Peggy's point is -- because you spent as much time you felt like that. But he does not ever convey a sense of urgency given the problems that the whole world is facing.
And what I loved about the piece -- and you are a great writer -- is the revelation that we all knew from the outside, the conceit, the naivete of I'm going to come to Washington, me, Barack Obama and make fundamental transformation. And if that's -- is I didn't know the IRS was tagging my opponent, I didn't know why (inaudible) healthcare act wasn't going to work, I don't know anything about Fast and Furious, I don't know anything about anything. Fundamental transformation, that goes to the lack of urgency...
STEPHANOPOULOS: ...Barack Obama. But we have some news attributed to (inaudible) on Chris Christie. You know, trying to turn the corner from his scandals this week, started off this week with a mea culpa in his state of the state address.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR DAWN ZIMMER, HOBOKEN: The fact is that the lieutenant governor came to Hoboken, she pulled him aside in the parking lot and she said I know I know it's not right, I know these things should not be connected, but they are, and if you tell anyone, I'll deny it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: That was the wrong clip right there, but that is what we're going to get to. That's mayor Dawn Zimmer of Hoboken, New Jersey with a pretty serious charge yesterday. She said that two Christie aids told her that if she did not back up a development project supported by Chris Christie, her city Hoboken would not get the kind of Hurricane Sandy aid they were looking for. Pretty serious charge, one she did not make earlier in the week when she said she didn't -- she couldn't back it up, but she backed it up with some diary entries at the time after these conversations.
How serious is this? And how serious overall are these problems for Chris Christie?
MATALIN: Essentially what the accusation here is that Chris Christie is doing New York, is doing Chicago politics. That's how Jersey politics has always been. I'm not saying it's true or it's not true, probably isn't true.
What is fascinating, though, is the obsession by everybody -- the Republican establishment, the media, on Chris Christie and what he should be doing. And James and I have been laughing for a week on our (inaudible) address. I've been in a toll booth outfit and go...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...genius given to what 98 percent of America could give a hoot about it. It's what so interesting about this story.
CARVILLE: This is (inaudible). The (inaudible) scandal is a huge scandal. Hundreds of millions later -- billions of dollars. It never goes anywhere. Why? Because people can't understand it, OK. This is the most understandable thing in the world. We don't like the mayor, we closed off lanes, we left ordinary people in traffic for four days. I'm sorry, when you think about it, it's really, really...
REMNICK: Wait a minute, this is a politician who is thinking about running for president. We're trying to get a measure of the temperament, behavior and corruption or non-corruption under Chris Christie, somebody who very clearly wants to be president of the United States. I see no reason at all not to be looking at this and doing the journalism and see what he knew, what he didn't know, what he was responsible for and what he wasn't responsible for.
NOONAN: But I think you can say in fairness that the New York based media, which has certain political predilections or sympathies is pounding this guy everyday in a way, deserved or not, in a way that they did not apply to IRS, the Benghazi, this one, that one. It's true. That was not frontpage every day.
That having been said, look, Chris Christie is trying to stabilize his operation. Up until two days ago looked like it was getting kind of stable. Now we have the new Hoboken mayor, a Democrat, a person who gave a long interview on MSNBC. Seems like a sincere person. We'll see where that goes. If that's a serious story and holds water, it's going to be a serious story.
SMILEY: I stay out of handicapping presidential races two years out because eight years ago nobody saw Barack Hussein Obama coming number one.
Having said that, though, I'm no defender of Chris Christie. He doesn't need my help. But it is the case, as we sit here this morning, George, we still don't know what he knew. We don't know what he did. And, David, to your point, it's worth remembering that.
And ultimately, I think that no matter how this bridgegate thing turns out, if he can't build a bridge, Mary, to the conservative base of his party, he's on a road to nowhere anyway.
MATALIN: I don't disagree with that, completely don't disagree with it. And the point is why everybody is obsessed with it is because we already moved to 2016, which goes to your point, we haven't finished 2014, and Barack Obama...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But I mean, and Chris Christie is -- not his defense, but you look at the polls this week, he actually strengthened his position in New Hampshire over the course of this week.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Coming up, the Olympic fight over gay rights. Do gay athletes have anything to fear from Russia's propaganda law? President Putin and Billie Jean King are next.
And right before we go to break, our powerhouse puzzler. We ask you to submit political trivia question for our panelists. This week's question comes from Julie DeDominici (ph) "who was the only president who's first language was not English? For bonus points, which language did he speak?" We're back in two minutes to see who gets it right.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, there's This Week's puzzler. Who was the only president who's first language was not English? OK, everybody -- everyone is puzzled on this one.
REMNICK: I'm holding up a blank slate.
MATALIN: I'm saying Coolidge (ph), but I'm sure he was very proud to speak English.
CARVILLE: Not the foggiest idea, Millard Filmore.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I would not have gotten it either. The answer is Martin van Buren, eighth president of the United States. First language was Dutch.
SMILEY: Who knew?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Who knew.
REMNICK: But now we do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Send us your questions, ABC This Week powerhouse puzzler. We'll be back with the roundtable's take on President Putin and the Olympics after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PUTIN (through translator): We aren't banning anything. We aren't rounding up anyone. We don't prosecute anyone for such relations, unlike many other countries. So one can feel relaxed and at ease. But please, leave the children in peace.