'This Week' Transcript: Secretary of State John Kerry

PHOTO: Cokie Roberts, Newt Gingrich, Robert Reich, Ana Navarro on This Week

A rush transcript of "This week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday morning, December 15 2013 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated. For a full transcript of Martha Raddatz's interview with Secretary of State John Kerry click here.

RADDATZ: Good morning, welcome to a special edition of "This Week" from Vietnam.

On edge, the trouble brewing across the globe from North Korea to Iran, Afghanistan to Syria. We're traveling with America's top diplomat, the globe-trotting Secretary of State John Kerry. What can he do to keep the peace abroad and keep Americans safe at home? And how did his experiences at war here in Vietnam shape his world view. It's an ABC News exclusive.

Plus, the Republican free for all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) OHIO: I don't care what they do.

Are you kidding me?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: With Speaker Boehner in all-out-war against the Tea Party, who will win the fight? Newt Gingrich and Robert Reich join the powerhouse roundtable to break it all down.

It's all, right here, this Sunday morning.

ANNOUNCER: A special edition of "This Wee" with Martha Raddatz in Vietnam and Jonathan Karl in Washington starts right now.

RADDATZ: Hello, again. I'm Martha Raddatz. Great to have you with us from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam where we're on the road with Secretary of State John Kerry tracking developments here in the region, including the stunning events in North Korea where the leader Kim Jong-un has executed his uncle and mentor.

We're also following several other developing stories this morning, including the funeral service for Nelson Mandela. Prince Charles and Jesse Jackson are among the guests for the private ceremony in Mandela's home village this morning capping a 10 day goodbye to the former South African president.

Meanwhile, back here in the city, formerly known as Saigon, this is the first trip here for Secretary of State John Kerry since the Vietnam veteran took on his new post. It's been a busy first year for the son of a foreign service officer who is now the top American diplomat.

Just this week, a dramatic shift in Syria. Is al Qaeda gaining ground there?

Plus, those alarming new revelations over an American being held in Iran.

But we started off with that shocking move by North Korea's young dictator that has rattled governments throughout the region.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ: Mr. Secretary I want to get right to reports out of North Korea that the young leader, Kim Jong-un has executed his uncle, his mentor, one of the most powerful people in North Korea. What does this tell you about the danger coming from North Korea?

KERRY: Well, it tells us a lot about, first of all, how ruthless and reckless he is. And it also tells us a lot about how insecure he is, to a certain degree. It tells a significant amount about the instability internally of the regime, with the numbers of executions, this is not the first execution. There have been a significant number of executions taken place over the last months which we're aware of. And most importantly, it underscores the importance for all of us of finding a way forward with North Korea in order to denuclearize the peninsula.

It's an ominous sign of the instability and of the danger that does exist.

RADDATZ: What does it tell you about him? We know so little about him?

KERRY: We don't know -- I mean, North Korea remains relevantly opaque. It is not easy, but we do have insights and the insights that we have tell us that he is spontaneous, erratic, still worried about his place in the power structure and maneuvering to eliminate any potential adversary or competitor and does so, obviously ruthlessly. I mean, you saw the pictures of his uncle being arrested in front of everybody at this...

RADDATZ: And this was so public?

KERRY: I mean, it really reminded me of a video that we saw of Saddam Hussein doing the same thing, having people plucked out of an audience, and people sitting there sweating and nobody daring to move or do anything.

This is the nature of this ruthless, horrendous dictatorship and of his insecurities.

And I think we need to factor that into the urgency of getting China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, all of us, to stay on the same page, and to put as much effort into the denuclearization as possible.

To have a nuclear weapon, potentially, in the hands of somebody like Kim Jong-un just becomes even more unacceptable.

RADDATZ: I want to move the other headline, which is that of Iran and Robert Levinson, the FBI agent who was reportedly working with the CIA in Iran, disappeared seven years ago. His family has confirmed to ABC News that he did have ties to the CIA. I know you're not going to confirm anything like that, but I want to tell you what his family said. They say that the U.S. government has abandoned and betrayed him and is getting lip-service from the Obama administration on their efforts for his release.

Has there been any real progress?

KERRY: Well, there hasn't been progress in the sense that we don't have him back, but to suggest that we abandoned him or anybody has abandoned him is simply incorrect and not helpful.

The fact is, that I have personally raised the issue, not only at the highest level that I have been involved with, but also through other intermediaries. We don't have any meeting with anybody who has something to do with Iran or an approach to Iran where we don't talk to them about how we might be able to find not just Mr. Levinson, but we have two other Americans that we're deeply concerned about...

RADDATZ: Do you have any...

KERRY: We're looking for proof of life, we're working on several processes that I'm not free to talk about, but there are a number of different channels that are being worked and they're being worked aggressively.

RADDATZ: Do you believe that the Iranian government is responsible for his disappearance?

KERRY: I think the Iranian government -- I can't tell you what happened or how the sequence was, but I think the Iranian government has the ability to help us here. And we hope they will.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ: Much more of my exclusive with Secretary Kerry coming up, but first, let's go to Jonathan Karl back in Washington -- Jon.

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Martha.

Now to the other big news this week, Washington got back to work. A modest budget compromise announced by Congressman Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray brought Republicans and Democrats together, imagine that, but could it tear apart the GOP? Tea Party activists blasted the deal and Speaker of the House John Boehner fired back.

The powerhouse roundtable is ready to take it on, but first here's ABCs Jeff Zeleny.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOEHNER: Are you kidding me?

JEFF ZELENY, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The look on his face said it all. Speaker John Boehner finally fed up with the Tea Party.

BOEHNER: There just comes to a point when some people step over the line.

ZELENY: Is this an example of you finally saying no to the Tea Party?

BOEHNER: I came here to cut the size of government, that's exactly what this bill does. You know, when you criticize something and you have no idea what you're criticizing, it undermines your credibility.

ZELENY: The rare bipartisan budget deal that prevents another government shutdown suddenly became a line in the sand for establishment Republicans like Boehner and Paul Ryan, who have been tiptoeing around conservative activists for three years.

What lessons have Republicans learned from the last two months?

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) WISCONSIN: I don't think you get anything out of a government shutdown. The point is, we're not getting everything we want because Barack Obama is president.

ZELENY: The right responded with a fire storm of criticism.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO SHOW HOSE: The Republican Party absorbed with eliminating any conservative influence...

MICHAEL NEEDHAM, CEO, HERITAGE ACTION: The speaker is being absurd. This deal increases spending. This deal increases taxes and that's bad for the country.

GLENN BECK, CONSERVATIVE TALK SHOW HOST: I think John Boehner is one of the prime examples of worthless, worthless Republicans.

ZELENY: And some Republicans, eying their own presidential aspirations piled on.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: The compromise also has to be a solution. It can't just be a compromise for the sake of saying I came to agreement on something.

ZELENY: A new front in a simmering civil war where the Republican establishment is firing back.

For this week, Jeff Zeleny, ABC News, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: All right, let's bring in the roundtable. Former speaker of the house Newt Gingrich, co-host of CNN's Crossfire. Robert Reich, the former labor secretary and star of the documentary "Inequality for All" out on DVD next month. Republican Strategist Ana Navarro from CNN. And ABC's own Cokie Roberts.

So, Speaker Gingrich, the headline here, there won't be a shutdown for at least two years. The Republican Party learned its lesson?

NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST CROSSFIRE: I have no idea. I think it's clear that it didn't work. And in that sense they learned a lesson. I think this was mediocre policy and brilliant politics.

ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: On whose part?

GINGRICH: On the Republican part. I mean, it doesn't get them what they want in policy terms, but it strips away the danger that people will notice anything but Obamacare. And the longer the country watches Obamacare, the more likely the Democrats are to lose the Senate. And from the Republican standpoint, if you can get to January 15 and have eight or nine new Senators and say 20 more House members, that gives you enormously more leverage for shaping '16.

KARL: So, if you were speaker of the house would you have done what Boehner did here?

GINGRICH: If I were a very junior member, I would have complained widely and if I were the speaker I would have rammed it through.

COKIE ROBERTS, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: And you were there.

GINGRICH: I was there. I did both actually.

ROBERTS: You were a member when John Boehner was the junior member who was fighting you.

GINGRICH: Well, John was actually (inaudible).

But I also remember late in my career, I blew up exactly like he did. And I think sometimes it's healthy. I think you -- he had -- they had worked very hard to get to this point. They were very battered by the shutdown. And I think he just thought why not?

NAVARRO: I like angry, fed-up John Boehner a lot more than I like crying John Boehner. I think he's right to be fed-up. He tried for two weeks to accommodate the, you know, this very right wing faction of the party. And they just could not be accommodated. The guy has had it.

KARL: But Ana, I've got to ask you, I mean why did it take two years? I mean, shouldn't he have done this a long time ago? I mean, he's felt this way for two years.

ROBERT REICH, FRM. LABOR SECRETARY: John, I can tell you why...

NAVARRO: I think in politics we call it an evolution.

REICH: No, there's not an evolution here. What's happened was the business community, corporations, Wall Street, they decided that the mavericks, the Tea Parties are just too dangerous. You know, the shutdown scared them, but also the default, the prospect of a default on the full faith and credit of the United States scared them. And a lot of corporations said to the Chamber of Commerce and a lot of business groups we've got to get into Republican primaries.

And we've got to prevent the Tea Parties from intimidating -- the Tea Party groups from intimidating...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well...

REICH: -- the rest of the Republicans...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- but...

REICH: And that is the big change that has happened.

ROBERTS: Well, the other big (INAUDIBLE)...

REICH: It's not courage, it's money.

KARL: But the money...

ROBERTS: The other big thing that is happening...

KARL: -- but the money has been against this for a long time.

(CROSSTALK)

REICH: No, not the money in the primaries.

ROBERTS: It's the 10 percent approval rating of Congress. When you've got to...

KARL: That's also been around for...

ROBERTS: Well, but it's -- but it is now so poisoned. And so to have -- to have him say, look, it's worse for us to be in this position, you had what you called the perfectionist caucus, Mr. Speaker.

GINGRICH: That's right.

ROBERTS: The same exact sort of thing. And finally, you get to the point where you understand that the politics are that you need to get reelected as the Republican House of Representatives. And that's going to be hard when people are furious...

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: The game-changer here was the shutdown.

ROBERTS: Right.

NAVARRO: The -- you know, the Tea Party, the naysayers, they really overplayed their hand in the shutdown. And in the process, they strengthened John Boehner's hand.

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: And I think that's what we're seeing now...

GINGRICH: But this -- NAVARRO: -- because it's not only John Boehner who got fed up, it's every -- you know, it's a lot of other Republicans who got fed up and worried by seeing what was a political destruction of the Republican Party.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: And it's not over, by the way...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KARL: Mr. Speaker...

(CROSSTALK)

GINGRICH: The other giant game-changer was ObamaCare. If you're -- if you're a semi-rational Republican and you are sitting around, it's one thing to say, gee, that didn't work. It's another thing to have this gigantic Christmas gift show up on your doorstep...

ROBERTS: Right.

GINGRICH: -- with a little note that says, "please don't screw this up."

KARL: Which they managed to do when it was over.

(CROSSTALK)

GINGRICH: They're able to...

(CROSSTALK)

GINGRICH: -- they're able to walk around now and just say to each other, you know, let's make sure the news media is covering the collapse of ObamaCare, not covering a fight in the Republican Party.

REICH: But before we...

ROBERTS: But, also let's...

REICH: -- before we celebrate this budget deal, which is really marginal -- you know, it shows how low our expectations have become that we think this is such a great breakout of bipartisanship. This is almost nothing.

And the real shameful aspect of it is that 1.3 -- one and a third million people are not going to be getting unemployment benefits on December 28th because Congress did not, in this budget agreement, see fit to extend unemployment benefits.

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: -- Democrats didn't really fight for it.

ROBERTS: No, they didn't.

REICH: And the Democrats should have fought harder.

KARL: (INAUDIBLE) the White House...

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: Because...

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: -- because they're happy to see the Republicans fighting each other over what's in the budget deal. There's a lot of Democrats who feel just like what Robert does.

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: I want to pick up Robert's point, though, about just how modest this thing is. ROBERTS: Yes.

KARL: We heard speaker of the House Gingrich say that if you're for deficit reduction, you're for this.

Take a look at this.

ROBERTS: Boehner.

KARL: I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: -- Speaker Boehner, the other one.

Look at this. So $85 billion in deficit reduction out of $6.3 trillion in added deficits over the next 10 years. This was about 1 percent.

REICH: The brilliant thing about this budget is you can look at it and make any argument you want. You can't tell whether it's deficit reduction. You can't tell whether it's more spending. Anybody can see in it what they want. And that is exactly the point.

ROBERTS: Right. But what it does -- look, we know what it does. It keeps the government going. It keeps us away from another crisis. And it does put some money back into some domestic programs that were really screaming, particularly scientific research so that you have...

KARL: And defense.

ROBERTS: -- and defense.

KARL: Well, I...

ROBERTS: And you have a lot of...

(CROSSTALK)

REICH: Yes, but it does nothing for the -- I mean there's almost nothing for the poor. There's almost nothing.

ROBERTS: Well, that's true.

REICH: Title I, a montry -- secondary education, Head Start...

ROBERTS: And we still have a...

REICH: -- all of the programs...

ROBERTS: -- and we still have a farm bill...

REICH: -- that this country...

ROBERTS: -- with cutting food stamps.

REICH: -- given the widening gap that we're going to be hopefully talking about later on in this program, you know, this budget does not one iota to improve (INAUDIBLE).

KARL: Well, I want to ask you, for all the talk about how Republicans caved and all the anger from the right, you know, the White House has -- the president has said for a long time any approach to deficit reduction must be balanced, meaning there has to be tax increases on the wealthy as well as cuts.

There are no tax increases on the wealthy here.

Did the White House wave the white flag on that issue?

REICH: I think the White House wanted some sort agreement, to the end of the year and say, oh, well, bipartisanship is back and maybe -- maybe you can build on this little scrap of bipartisanship for some larger purposes.

ROBERTS: I mean that's what you're hearing out of the White House.

REICH: And a...

ROBERTS: -- you're hearing it out of the White House, because he says, OK, now, I've got this. Now I can talk about immigration. Now I can talk about income inequality. I can get to those other issues...

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: But, actually, you know, on this point...

ROBERTS: -- a big question.

KARL: -- Speaker Gingrich, on the immi -- the conventional wisdom on immigration was if you don't get it this done this year, it's not going to happen, that you're not going to pass it in an election year.

But isn't the reverse true...

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: -- if you wait until after the Republican primaries, after the primaries...

(CROSSTALK)

GINGRICH: It's not even a question of the primaries. I think the House Republicans will probably move five or six separate, smaller bills, adding up to a large change. I think the president has indicated already that he would accept that kind of approach. And I think they'll do that in the spring. I mean I think the chairman (INAUDIBLE) wants to move something. And I don't...

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: So we're going to have (INAUDIBLE) -- immigration reform, including a path to citizenship (INAUDIBLE)?

GINGRICH: I didn't say that.

(CROSSTALK)

REICH: There is no way.

GINGRICH: I said that the very substantial (INAUDIBLE)...

ROBERTS: It is actually possible...

(CROSSTALK)

REICH: There is no way.

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: It's going to be...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But wait a minute.

NAVARRO: -- it's going to be a different -- what comes out of the House is going to be a different bill than what the Senate passed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

NAVARRO: But most definitely, I think the window for immigration reform reopens late spring/early summer. It doesn't get done then, it doesn't get done.

But a very good sign happened just 10 days ago, when John Boehner hired a (AUDIO GAP) staffer, a woman named Rebecca Talent, who was the person who did -- was John McCain's right-hand on immigration.

It's unfinished business for her...

KARL: Somebody from the bipartisan Policy Center whose entire work has been...

NAVARRO: Who would...

KARL: -- on immigration.

NAVARRO: -- who came in particularly to help draft House projects, to help draft something...

ROBERTS: Yes.

NAVARRO: -- that can pass political muster and policy muster.

(CROSSTALK)

REICH: But that's the problem...

ROBERTS: It can be like the Compromise of 1850 -- REICH: But that's exactly the problem.

ROBERTS: -- where different people vote for different parts of it. And then the -- and then you get the whole thing through.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: I think it's possible.

KARL: But you don't?

REICH: I do not think it's going to happen, because Republicans do not want to vote on anything that can be interpreted by the Republican base as pro-immigrant or creating any kind of a way for immigrants to come in here...

GINGRICH: I think that's...

REICH: -- who are now undocumented.

NAVARRO: So that's true for...

REICH: And that's...

NAVARRO: -- some Republicans, but I think there's enough Republicans...

REICH: (INAUDIBLE).

NAVARRO: -- that are going to support something, because a lot of people want to get it done. A lot of people want to get it off their to-do list.

GINGRICH: OK. They have...

NAVARRO: And a lot of people have a national vision...

GINGRICH: This...

NAVARRO: -- and understand it's important for the existence and growth of the Republican Party...

ROBERTS: Right.

NAVARRO: -- in the future.

(AUDIO GAP)

(CROSSTALK)

REICH: Can I offer a note of, I hope, not undue cynicism?

You know, a do-nothing Congress is not necessarily bad for the Republican Party. A Congress that inspires cynicism among the public about the capacity of government to do anything is not necessarily antithetical with what Republicans have been saying all along about government.

ROBERTS: Unless you own one house...

KARL: Well, Speaker Boehner has said...

ROBERTS: Unless you own one house.

KARL: -- judge us not by how many laws we pass, but by how many we'd repeal.

REICH: Exactly.

GINGRICH: But -- but I understand Robert's, you know, dream of a Republican Party sufficiently stupid to (INAUDIBLE).

REICH: Dream?

GINGRICH: But I would just suggest that what happened in New Jersey is really, really important. I mean Christie got 50 percent of the Latino vote. And that says to a lot of Republicans that if you, in fact, are willing to lean forward, if you're willing to go out and compete, if you're willing to pass systemic immigration reform, you have a very different 2016 than Democratic strategists expect.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: But it is true. We should not...

(CROSSTALK)

REICH: -- to Christie getting the Republican presidential nomination.

GINGRICH: It's not about having a nominee, it's about a Republican Party which is competitive (AUDIO GAP) vision, competitive on Telemundo, capable of having an argument, a...

ROBERTS: And you have to have an immigration bill...

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: I see a path for a Chris Christie or a Jeb Bush, because if you've got five people on the right dividing up that vote, then there is a path for a Christie or a Jeb...

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: Not if they both run...

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: All right, we've got -- we're -- we're going to have time enough to talk about the 2016 primary. But I want to turn to the other major political development this week, which was PolitiFact awarded their Lie of the Year. This is not exactly an award you want to win, but it went to President Obama for his statement, if you like your health care plan, you can keep it.

A dubious distinction, the first ever lie of the year, went to Sarah Palin for talking about death panels.

What do you make of it?

Is it justified?

REICH: Well, justified, not justified. What the president wanted to talk about this week was the fact that there are 350,000, 360,000 enrollees in November, new enrollees in November at the -- on the -- the healthcare.com.

And, in fact, he can't talk about that.

I mean the attacks on ObamaCare, on the Affordable Care Act, have been absolutely relentless. It was a terrible mistake for him to say what he did.

But, uh, you know, after a while, you've got to look at the fact that we have one of the most important reforms of the health care system of the United States ever enacted.

KARL: Is it going to be seen that way a year from now?

REICH: I think it is, because at the present rate of enrollment, we're going to have over a million people enrolled...

ROBERTS: Unless...

REICH: -- by January...

ROBERTS: -- unless...

REICH: -- and people are going to stop complaining.

ROBERTS: Unless a year from now, people start seeing their employers dropping their health insurance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

ROBERTS: And then the -- you'll start to have a whole another wave of reaction against it.

GINGRICH: But, Jon, I think you have -- you have to put this in context. Over five million people have lost their insurance because of ObamaCare. Now we have 350,000 who have found insurance. That's a pretty bad exchange rate.

In January, you're going to see ads on TV of attorneys saying, you know, if you went to the hospital and found you weren't insured and you need to sue somebody, call me for a free consultation.

(LAUGHTER)

REICH: And you're going to be in the ads.

(CROSSTALK)

REICH: You're going to be providing the ads.

GINGRICH: -- there are thousands of people who are going to show up in the hospital and find out that they don't have the insurance coverage they thought they had.

Then you're going to have the issue of the fact that you can't go to the cancer specialist you want because the government has approved very narrow networks.

I mean all these...

ROBERTS: But...

GINGRICH: -- compounding things are going to (INAUDIBLE)...

ROBERTS: Of course all of that...

GINGRICH: -- all next year.

ROBERTS: -- but all of that's been true...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: -- in -- in insurance policies already. I mean the notion that you could go to any doctor you wanted to...

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: But now the president is going to own a lot of this.

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: So, listen, I mean a lot of it...

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: -- a lot of it is self-inflicted injuries. The bottom line is they launched a program that was not ready for prime time. They have been inaccurate, untruthful about a lot of the problems that have developed as a result of that. And they knew a lot of this...

KARL: All right.

NAVARRO: -- and pretended they didn't and just...

KARL: All right, we...

NAVARRO: -- (INAUDIBLE) plowed on.

KARL: We've got to take a quick break.

Coming up, much more with the roundtable, plus the unbelievable story this week that amazed us and will inspire you, the 12-year-old girl you won't forget.

And the pope back in the news this week, we'll tell you why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: Pope Francis this morning was named TIME magazine's Person of the Year for 2013. Unbelievable how much crack does a mayor have to smoke to win Person of the Year?

JIMMY FALLON, HOST, LATE NIGHT: Pope Francis was named TIME's Person of the Year. And today, he even performed his first miracle. He actually got people to buy TIME magazine. Very interesting.

ANNOUNCER: This Week with George Stephanopoulos brought to you buy National Car Rental.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KARL: Back with more from the roundtable, plus a very special guest joins us, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KARL: A major piece of investigative journalism over a year in the making played out on the front page of the "New York Times" this week, the series, "The Invisible Child" brought Dasani, a 12-year-old homeless girl on the streets of New York City to life. Meet Dasani.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: Meet Dasani, named after the bottled water, because to her mother it signified luxury. She's a proud 4' 8" tall 12-year-old girl and one in an invisible army of children, 22,000 strong, who are homeless in New York City. And this is what passes for a home, a 520-square-foot room shared with her parents and seven siblings in a dilapidated city run shelter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am going to college.

KARL: School was where Dasani can find an escape, learning to recite poems from memory.

DASANI: "A Phenomenal Woman" by Maya Angelou. "Pretty women wonder where my secret lies. I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model...

KARL: Despite her tough circumstances, Dasani has boundless energy. She dreams big. But even her dreams are clouded by the despair that surrounds her.

ANDREA ELLIOT, JOURNALIST: In your imagination, what does the perfect childhood look like?

DASANI: Quiet. Flowers everywhere. Sparkles on the ground. Mom and dad always talked about a perfect childhood. Yeah, mom and dad can be drunk at a perfect childhood.

ELLIOT: So, you think that being drunk is part of the perfect childhood? The parents are drunk.

DASANI: Yes, because when they are drunk, you ask them anything, they tell you can get it. That's the perfect childhood.

ELLIOT: Really, Dasani, you really think a perfect childhood is your parents...

DASANI: You say use my imagination. I used it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: That voice you heard on the tape with Dasani was Andrea Eliot, the "New York Times" reporter who spent 15 months chronically this family's struggles. Andrea joins us now.

I have to say, an extraordinary piece of journalism, maybe the most remarkable thing I have read this year.

ELLIOT: Thank you.

KARL: Thank you for joining us.

And Dasani, one of 22,000 homeless children in the city of New York, but a remarkable young girl.

ELLIOT: She is. She is a remarkable girl.

I would argue that her circumstances are less remarkable, because of the sheer size of this population, but this kid is curious, funny, whip smart. Her resilience was something that I really was curious about myself, how strength played a role in getting her through her day-to-day life.

KARL: And grown up. I mean, she's 11 years old for most of the time you spent with her. And yet she's kind of a surrogate parent.

ELLIOT: She is, very much so. And one of the things I think I came away with after spending a year, more than a year with this family was just seeing how the very qualities that potentially could help her escape her circumstances: her strength, her resilience, her intelligence, are also things that have been indispensable to keep -- carrying the family forward in a sense.

She's relied upon to hold it together, because this is a family that struggles with a lot of problems. And so it's a little bit the irony of her strength in the way that become a weakness.

KARL: And you -- you know, you talk about how that number caught your eye, 22,000 homeless children. This is put in context, they couldn't all fit in Madison Square Garden. And yet this is the invisible side of homeless. We don't see these children as much.

ELLIOT: It's true. I find it really striking how, when I was with them, kind of just in their daily lives in New York City, how easily they remain on the margins and sort of in the shadows of city life, part of it has to do with the fact I think the experience of poverty in the United States is one that is more subtle than in other places that I have covered.

And so, in New York City, a lot of the garments, for instance, that -- clothing garments that are donated, that find their way to this family come from households of means. So, the children will be wearing used Uggs and Patagonia and you just don't -- poverty doesn't wear itself in such an obvious way. And yet, what I think the family would say about that is, it makes no more superior than poverty in other countries when you consider the incredible gap what these children have and what they need in order to thrive.

This child, Dasani, and her siblings, is really gifted. She's an amazing athlete, she's a great dancer, really, really smart. Had she been born into other circumstances, she would be thriving. But in her life as it is, she's merely surviving

KARL: Describe the conditions. Because you saw something none of us ever get a chance to see, because frankly we're not allowed inside. Describe the circumstances inside a family homeless shelter. There is some 300 people living in this shelter.

ELLIOT: So this is a shelter that is run by the city. And most shelters in New York City are actually run by nonprofits. There's a range of experiences. But this shelter is definitely one that struggles with a lot of terrible conditions in a sense that there's mold on the walls, mice in their room, they were laying out traps every night and shooting video of the mice they would catch. They had to hang their food from a plastic bag from the ceiling. The food was served rancid a lot of the time.

Two of the children as asthmatic, one is legally blind, and they shared this small space with you know 10 people basically doubled up on mattresses in one small space for years.

And I think that that kind of compressed experience of living would make any family fall apart.

KARL: I mean incredible and the photographs are, really bring it to life. You, you're a mom; you've got two young children. This is not like any, really, other story right? This had to affect you. Especially a year, 15 months.

ELLIOTT: It very much opened my eyes as also a New Yorker, to the, a different experience of the city. And this is kind of what I came away with again and again, was just the sense that while New York is very much a place that's defined by what's out of reach, I mean, most people feel that there's something out of reach when they're living in New York. An apartment that they can't get or a job.

But this is a population for whom everything is out of reach. And I think that that is what struck me the most being with these children day in, day out, and just thinking about how that experience is replicated tens of thousands of times in this homeless population, but also by millions across the country this sense that this is a country that is filled with promise that isn't for them. That isn't something that's attainable by them.

KARL: And just, we're almost out of time, but I can't imagine you're going to leave this story behind. I mean, it's, I can tell from watching the tape, you've almost become a mentor to (inaudible). You're not only chronicling her life but you've become close to this girl and her family.

ELLIOTT: I remain a journalist. My role is as a journalist, the reporting, when you're reporting on children it's a very different thing. You really do have to connect with them and talk about their feelings and their experiences in a way that draws them out. And she's a very vocal child. I do continue to, I hope to continue to follow them, yes.

KARL: All right Andrea Elliott, again, an extraordinary piece of journalism and an important one. Thank you for taking the time to share it with us.

Don't go anywhere we have to take a quick break but we'll be back with much more from our powerhouse roundtable in just a moment. Including their thoughts on the Pope breathing new life into the church. Recognized this week by "Time" magazine as the Person of the Year.

And later much more of Martha's exclusive interview with John Kerry on his trip back to Vietnam.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: You saw a lot of death. You also took a man's life. Do you think about that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH (NOVEMBER 27): This is just pure Marxism (inaudible) mouth of the Pope. There's no (inaudible) unfettered capitalism that doesn't exist anywhere. Unfettered capitalism is a liberal, Socialist phrase to describe the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JON KARL, ABC NEWS: That was Rush Limbaugh recently attacking the Pope. But this weekend Pope Francis responded telling an Italian newspaper "Marxist ideology is wrong but I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don't feel offended."

Of course the Pope was also named "Time" magazine's Person of the Year and we are back now with the roundtable. So Cokie I've got to ask you, after a year of Pope Francis--

COKIE ROBERTS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Not quite, March 13. It's not even been a year. But it's been a remarkable year.

KARL: What kind of impact, he's shaking up the church.

ROBERTS: He's shaking up the church; he's got people loving him. Our ABC poll shows him with 92% approval rating among Catholics and among non-Catholics in the 60s. Twice what Benedict had.

He's fun, he's loving. He's kind, he's humble and people are (inaudible). But he's also saying very important things. And what's he's saying is basically what Jesus said. And why this is making people puzzled is a very interesting thing. They clearly have not spent much time with reading the New Testament.

ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: This Pope is spectacular Jon. And you know I'm a Catholic and I can tell you that I was very disappointed with the structures of the church. I think what he has done to rehabilitate the church in a short nine month period (inaudible).

Church attendance is up all over the world. He has shown a heart. He has put the focus of the church back where it needs to be. Amongst the poor he has shown compassion. You know, I'm telling you, after (inaudible) I think we only go for Latino popes. We're only doing Latins after this guy.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBERT REICH, FORMER CLINTON LABOR SECRETARY: Well I think he had the temerity to take on (inaudible) trickledown economics. That does not make him a Marxist, however. And I think what he was saying is something that a lot of people, not only in the United States, but everywhere around the world are concerned about. And that is a widening inequality, a kind of savagery of that widening inequality in terms of what it is doing to our societies.

KARL: And let me ask you Newt Gingrich, when you look at that issue of inequality and this is something he's put front and center, the Pope has. It's something of course that President Obama (inaudible). We saw the story about homelessness in New York--

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Sure.

KARL: Stark reality of the gap in the nation's biggest city. Is this an issue that (inaudible) should be talking about?

GINGRICH: Absolutely. How can you justify the level of wealth in those big towers in New York and the level of poverty in those alleys? And without talking about government, say, surely a society that cared, that believed every person was endowed by their creator with the right to pursue happiness, would come up with a better solution than 22,000 children that are homeless.

And I think that the Republican Party has an obligation to rethink some of its indifference to the very poor. And I think the Democrats have an obligation to ask themselves after 50 years of the war on poverty, (inaudible).

(CROSSTALK)

REICH: The war on poverty which next year we are going to celebrate the 50th anniversary in addition to the Civil Rights Act. The war on poverty was successful for a time. What has happened however over the last 30 years is much of the, much of the ardor, much of the concern, much of the (inaudible) on poverty has dissipated.

ROBERTS: It's also true though--

KARL: Why after five years of President Barack Obama (inaudible) the problem worse?

REICH: Well the problem is worse; I think it has something to do, perhaps, with the intransigence of the Speaker's Party. Because every time there was a jobs bill, every time there was an effort to expand a low income housing, every time there was an effort to provide better opportunities for young people--

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: Look there are--

REICH: We're talking about equal opportunity.

GINGRICH: Every (inaudible), every, this is baloney.

REICH: At the basis of this, what is baloney?

GINGRICH: Here's the baloney. Every major city which has a center of poverty is run by Democrats. Every major city. Their policies have failed, they're not willing to admit and the fact is it's the poor who suffer from bad--

(CROSSTALK)

REICH: Wait a minute, wait a minute--

ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker--

REICH: First of all (inaudible) a Democrat--

ROBERTS: It is true that--

REICH: And secondly what's happening in America--

ROBERTS: It is true that a lot of these public policies--

KARL: There's been a Democrat in New York for 20 years.

REICH: What's happening in America is happening all over America. And it's happening in a way that has to do with the fact that wages, median wages are going nowhere.

KARL: Right.

REICH: And rents are going up and there is absolutely no response in Washington or elsewhere, particularly, particularly, Newt I'm surprised you are not taking responsibility--

KARL: We are we are unfortunately out of time. Obviously a subject we will come back to. That's it for the show. Back now to Martha Raddatz in Vietnam.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: Thanks Jon. We're back in Ho Chi Minh City now with more of my exclusive interview with Secretary of State John Kerry and his take on those alarming developments this week out of Syria, where Al Qaeda appears to be gaining ground, taking over warehouses full of aid meant for American-backed moderate rebels.

The major news out of Syria this week, the US has suspended non-lethal aid because Islamist rebels took over a warehouse.

KERRY: Yeah.

RADDATZ: How did that happen?

KERRY: Well it happened because there's a certain amount of in-fighting taking place within the opposition. And this is the nature of the beast that has been unleashed by Bashar al-Assad who probably is feeding some of it himself. Because he likes to try to play the card that he is the better alternative to these extremists. So there's some indicators that he's even fueling some of that.

The problem is you have some radical Islamic elements there.

RADDATZ: So what's the next move?

KERRY: Well there is more, moderate opposition has been united up until recently. And we believe they still can be united. We are aiming towards the Geneva 2 Conference which will take place in January, the latter part of January.

We are committed to try to bring people together. A strong representation of the opposition together with the Assad regime representatives. And with maybe 30 or so other countries. And all try to work in the same direction which is to get a political settlement out of Syria.

RADDATZ: When can you start the non-lethal aid back again to those moderate rebels?

KERRY: I think very quickly. We've already had--

RADDATZ: What are you waiting for?

KERRY: Well we've already had, we've already had some proffers to have the warehouse protected and other kinds of things. But I think people want to be careful. Have the meetings that we need to have and make certain we can proceed forward thoughtfully. Nobody wants to just fill the warehouse up again and have it taken over again. That doesn't make sense. So we need to make sure where we're going.

But look, this is complicated, this isn't easy. You know a year ago, before the president started to focus on this and figure that we have to accelerate the efforts to get a political solution, nothing was happening. Except fighting and killing.

And a year ago chemical weapons were being used and under the control of the Assad regime. Now through our diplomatic efforts, we are moving towards a Peace Conference--

RADDATZ: And you really think that's going to happen next month?

KERRY: We're committed to going; the Russians are committed to going. Countries are committed to going.

RADDATZ: John McCain says, "The moderate opposition groups are losing... As a result, extremists are filling the void, and entire sections of Syria, stretching deep into Iraq, are now effectively safe havens for Al-Qaeda." True?

KERRY: There's some truth, yeah. It's absolutely true. Al-Qaeda has greater clout there than it had before and it's an increasing threat. And it's a threat we're going to have to confront. But John also understands that the members of Congress with whom he serves were not willing to put additional money in in order to fund overtly and put money into the opposition significantly.

RADDATZ: Let's turn to the war we are still in and that is in Afghanistan and there's very little progress it appears with Hamid Karzai, the president who does not want to sign this security agreement that would allow US forces to remain beyond 2014. Making it clear, that's what the US wants, to allow troops to stay beyond 2014.

KERRY: Well the US wants success in Afghanistan. And success means having an Afghan arms force that has the ability to sustain itself and provide security to the people of Afghanistan so they can continue on the road to developing their society, their institutions, their health care system, their education and other things that are happening today.

When American went into Afghanistan Martha, there were about 900,000 kids in school and they were all boys. Today there are about 7 or 8 million children in school and almost 40% of them are girls. So there's a huge transformation taking place and we want to try to hold on to that.

RADDATZ: If we don't leave those, if we don't leave those troops there, can you guarantee that young women can still go to school?

KERRY: No. Absolutely not. You can't guarantee anything I think if American forces were not there, I think there would be serious challenges with respect to Afghanistan security. But here's the but, I believe that Hamid Karzai, either he or his successor will sign this. I think he needs to sign it.

RADDATZ: His successor? So it's OK if his successor--

KERRY: No, no. I said he or they will, but he needs to sign it.

RADDATZ: By when?

KERRY: We negotiated--

RADDATZ: Give me a date.

KERRY: We negotiated an agreement, that wasn't in place, by the way, a year ago. Now we have an agreement that's been negotiated and he has said to me personally and as recently as a day ago, reiterated through his minister that the language is fine. So we are very close to the ability to move forward. And I believe it will be signed and I hope it will be signed as soon as possible.

RADDATZ: Is there a cutoff date where you have to say we can't, we can't leave the troops there.

KERRY: Well there is a cutoff date but I'm not going to get into cutoff dates. I think--

RADDATZ: First it was October, then it was, does it have to be by January?

KERRY: No. This needs to be signed as soon as possible. And I think he understands that.

RADDATZ: How long do you want troops to stay there?

KERRY: Well that's up to the President of the United States. And it's up to the process on the ground. But the president has already said we are prepared to be there for a number of years going forward in a very different role. A very diminished role. Of training, advising and equipping the Afghans. We will not be in combat. America will not be engaged in combat. It's a very different--

RADDATZ: But counterterrorism troops you want there as well.

KERRY: We will be doing counterterrorism, that is correct.

RADDATZ: That's combat.

KERRY: Not automatically. Not directly. It can be intel gathering. It can be providing information to the Afghans that they act on. And in some cases it might wind up being kinetic by American forces. But the point is it's not day-to-day combat against the Taliban on behalf of the Afghan people. It's counterterrorism to fight against terrorists, al-Qaeda, the Haqqani network, others who are threatening American assets and America itself.

RADDATZ: You put so much effort into your first year (inaudible) peace. You've gotten parties talking. But has there been any real concrete progress on the really tough issues?

KERRY: Yes. Actually there has been. But we've agreed not to be talking about what we're doing because it just creates great expectations. It creates pressure. It creates opposition in some cases. If this conflict was easy Martha, this would have been done years ago. It's confounded presidents and secretaries of state for (inaudible) years.

RADDATZ: And you feel this time is different?

KERRY: It's complicated now. Well I think we're in a different moment now. And hopefully the leaders will seize this moment and at least move the balls forward somewhat.

RADDATZ: We're sitting in Ho Chi Minh City. You're a Vietnam War veteran and an anti-war activist after the Vietnam War. How much of your (inaudible) is from your time spent here?

KERRY: Well obviously some of it Martha. But one thing I'm very careful, very, very careful not to do, is see everything through (inaudible) Vietnam. That would be a huge mistake. And it's informative but it doesn't imprison me, it doesn't dominate me.

RADDATZ: Thanks very much Mr. Secretary.

KERRY: Thank you.

RADDATZ: And much more of Secretary Kerry's reflections on his wartime experiences, after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RADDATZ: Back with more of our exclusive interview with John Kerry. This is his first trip back to Vietnam as Secretary of State, including to the city once known as Saigon. A name that will trigger a lot of memories for a lot of Americans.

This city was the heart of the American effort against the North Vietnamese. A war that in so many ways defined John Kerry.

This morning an extraordinary moment, Secretary of State John Kerry in the Mekong Delta back on the same waters he patrolled 44 years ago as a Navy Swift Boat Commander. A tour that earned then Lieutenant Kerry a Silver and Bronze Star.

KERRY: What I really remember about it more than anything is the sense of everybody's commitment to doing their job, getting things done, working together effectively. It was exciting and scary and exhilarating and all kinds of emotions. Sad. I mean it was all kinds of things at the same time.

But what really sticks with you is, there was camaraderie and a sense of accomplishment and purpose that was very special.

RADDATZ: You saw a lot of death. You also took a man's life. Do you think about that?

KERRY: Yeah sometimes. Sure. I think inevitably. But I don't get stuck there. I just, I always refuse to get stuck there. Kind of a purposeful decision. It happened is what it was, we were in a war. And it ended. And my goal became the future. My goal became how do we take that and make something better out of it?

RADDATZ: It's a goal that took him from anti-war activist--

KERRY: How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

RADDATZ: To a partnership in the Senate with fellow veteran John McCain, leading the charge to normalize relations with the government they'd fought against. And on this trip back, his first in more than 10 years, reflections on a country the US still criticizes for its human rights record. But where Kerry says much has changed.

KERRY: The young people have a different future. Where it's a marketplace, it's exciting. They have to do more on human rights. They have to do more on freedom on association, assembly, things like that. But it's gotten better in the last years. And I think it's on the right track.

RADDATZ: A new Vietnam, but also memories that linger. On his walk to church Saturday, Kerry passed the rooftop that was the site of the last helicopter evacuation before Saigon fell.

You're Catholic; you went to mass this weekend here, in Ho Chi Minh City. We talked about the Vietnam War really shaking your faith. How did you get that back?

KERRY: You know I just thought about it a lot. I think I had a sort of epiphany; a moment where it just occurred to me that there still is a purpose in God's work that defines itself differently from the ways one might superficially think.

And you know, you read the Letters of St. Paul and you read other parts of the Scripture and it talks about suffering. And it talks about adversity. And I sort of began to put that in a better place. Not see it so much as, you know, a determinative God who makes every decision for everything that happens. But rather creates a framework within which we're responsible for making things happen.

President Kennedy's words, here on earth, God's work must truly be our own. I think that pretty well sums it up.

RADDATZ: And now we honor our fellow Americans who are currently sacrificing and serving. This week the Pentagon released the name of one service member killed in Afghanistan.

That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News with David Muir" tonight. So long from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, have a great day.

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