'This Week' Transcript: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney

PHOTO: ABC News Cokie Roberts, Yahoo News National Political Columnist Matt Bai, CNNs "Crossfire" Co-Host Van Jones, Former U.S. Senator (R-PA) Rick Santorum and Fox News Anchor Greta Van Susteren on This Week

Update: This transcript has been updated.

Below is the rush transcript for "This Week" on January 26, 2014 and it may contain errors.

KARL: Good morning. Welcome to This Week.

Olympics alarm, terror threats, emergency evacuation plans, State Department issues a brand new travel alert and a warning to our athletes not to look too American. Is Sochi safe? What if terror strikes? This morning, Martha Raddatz with the breaking details.

Then, make or break moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: The stage is set for President Obama's state of the union. The powerhouse roundtable takes it on.

Plus, shocking scandal -- how lavish tastes brought down a power couple.

Clinton's cover making waves.

And Mitt Romney...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't believe you're going to lose. Yeah.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: Feeling the Sundance spotlight. It's all right here this Sunday morning.

ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, This Week with George Stephanopoulos starts now.

KARL: Hello again, I'm Jonathan Karl. Great to have you with us. Much to cover this morning, including later White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. We go head to head every day in the White House briefing room. Occasionally it gets a little heated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These memos say that at the end of the day we are all stuck in the same queue because they all have to go through the same portal.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: John (ph), I get it. But the person who calls isn't the one who continues to wait after the paper application is filled.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: OK, well we'll see what happens when Jay joins us shortly for his first Sunday show interview.

But we begin with an Olympic alert, new warnings out this weekend about security in Sochi. Let's go straight to Martha Raddatz who is reporting this morning from the Middle East -- Martha.

RADDATZ: Good morning, John. With opening ceremonies only 12 days away Russia, and indeed the world, are on high alert.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ: The U.S. State Department issued a new travel advisory Friday, noting the possible presence of so-called Black Widow suicide bombers in Sochi. The warning followed new threats this week vowing attacks on the games with the potential female suicide bombers still at-large.

Retired Lieutenant General Michael Barbero who led U.S. military efforts to prevent terrorist bomb attacks explained the tough task facing Russian authorities.

LT. GEN. MICHAEL BARBERO, U.S. ARMY (RET.): They have to try to defeat the toughest IED challenge there is, a suicide bomber in a crowd. There's no silver bullet. There's no technology. There's some facial recognition, some body scanning, but it's not a gamechanger. It's not full proof.

RADDATZ: Some Olympians are taking no chances. One U.S. speedskater advising his family not to make the trip to Sochi.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He wanted us to stay home so that he wouldn't have to worry about us, one less thing to be concerned about.

RADDATZ: Diplomatic security agents will accompany U.S. athletes to all events. And the U.S. Olympic committee has warned athletes not to wear U.S. gear outside Olympic venues to avoid being targeted.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The only thing I said to my family was bring a jacket that doesn't scream America.

RADDATZ: And while Russia takes the lead on securing Sochi, the U.S. has repeatedly offered its assistance. FBI agents will be on the ground during the games. And two U.S. navy ships will be in the nearby Black Sea.

DEFENSE SEC. CHUCK HAGEL: Whatever we can do we want to do to help.

RADDATZ: But one informal request by Russia's top general to joint chiefs chairman Martin Dempsey for American roadside bomb jamming technology may go unheaded.

BARBERO: As far as jamming technology, we're not going to share that.

RADDATZ: Why not?

BARBERO: Because it's very closely held. If you understood how we jammed, you could defeat it.

RADDATZ: The key to stopping any terror attack, of course, is intelligence. Russia, the U.S. and others are sharing whatever possible.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RADDATZ: But like anything else, it is not perfect -- Jon.

KARL: Thank you, Martha.

Let's bring in Congressman Peter King. He is the chair of the House counterterrorism and intelligence subcommittee. Thank you for joining us, Congressman.

KING: Thank you, Jon.

KARL: We saw this weekend in the New York Times Olympic athletes are worried about their own security, some of them. Can you reassure our athletes going to Sochi that they're going to be safe?

KING: I cannot give them 100 percent guarantee. The fact is that these are going to be very much threatened Olympics. Probably more than any we've had in our past, more than Greece, certainly more than London or China. So, no, it's -- I mean, everything is being done by the United States. But the fact is this is a dangerous region in Russia by the north Caucuses. There are active terrorist organizations there. And quite frankly, the Russians have not been cooperating with us or with other countries anywhere near the extent that, for instance, the Greeks or the Chinese or the Brits did.

KARL: But what about the suggestion to our athletes that they not wear their uniforms outside of the Olympic venues. Has it really come to that that American athletes have to hide the fact that they're American athletes?

KING: Yeah, I think it's an indicator of just how seriously our government takes this, the fact that there are real threats there.

And even though Putin talks about the ring of steel around the main Olympic venue, the fact is once you get outside that venue or even going from venue to venue there is real vulnerability. So I think that's -- I would advise the athletes that do everything they're asked to do by the security team, by the State Department, by the FBI, because they may feel safe, they may feel secure, wander off or wear some indicator that they're from the U.S. and just leave themselves open as a target.

Now this is a dangerous situation. Hopefully things will work out, but it's nowhere near ideal.

And again, I can't emphasize enough, the Russians have not been cooperative as far as sharing intelligence.

Again, the Greeks did, the Chinese did, the Brits did, the Russians are not and there's is the most dangerous.

KARL: Well, you've said that now twice, the Russians have not been cooperative. But we've just heard in Martha's story that they have asked for some equipment, technology that we're unwilling to share.

KING: Well, again, technology is different from sharing information, because usually intelligence is a mosaic, you get bits and pieces from different countries and you piece it together. The Russians don't want to share what they have, because they're afraid that that will enable us to learn how they obtain their intelligence and we'll use it against them in the future.

As far as using technology, I don't want to get into that as to what our police is, but I can understand why people in our government would be reluctant to share a very sophisticated piece of technology, which could be used against us in the future.

KARL: We have another big event right in your back yard, the Super Bowl, being held at Giants Stadium. And there's been a lot of talk about the weather as a big threat here. But you've been briefed on the security threat, how much of a threat and how comfortable are you with the security situation at the Super Bowl?

KING: Well, I'm confident that everything that can be done is being done. I've been there, I've met with all the officials involved. There was total sharing, total cooperation. There's any number of law enforcement agencies, federal state and local, bistate working together.

This will be the first mass transit Super Bowl, which prevents other issues, because so many people will be coming by subway, for instance. And also the cold weather, it'll be easier for people to conceal things under their clothing.

Having said that, the cooperation is enormous. And again, to the extent that any athletic event can be safe, the Super Bowl will be. It's really a model for cooperation with all levels of law enforcement.

KARL: All right, Congressman Peter King, thank you for joining us.

KING: Jon, thank you.

KARL: OK, now the State of the Union Address, President Obama's chance to sell you on his agenda for the rest for the second term. So what will he reveal on Tuesday? And how does he plan to get out of his slump? The roundtable is ready to break it down shortly.

KARL: But we want to start with our new poll out this morning which has some alarming numbers for the president. We took it straight to a top Obama adviser who shapes the White House message every day, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much.

KARL: A State of the Union is perhaps President Obama's biggest and best chance to get the mojo back.

OBAMA: There is much progress to report.

KARL: A make or break moment for a White House struggling.

Just look at this stunner from the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, only 37 percent of the public think the president has the ability to make the right decisions for the country.

How can the president lead when barely a third trust his ability to make the right decisions?

CARNEY: Jon, I think what we saw last year in 2013 was a Washington that did not deliver for the American people. And the president sees this as a year of action to work with Congress where he can and to bypass Congress where necessary, to lift folks who want to come up into the middle class.

KARL: So if you look at last year's State of the Union Address, the president made some specific promises -- raise the minimum wage...

OBAMA: Raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.

KARL: ...immigration reform...

OBAMA: The time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

KARL: ...background checks for gun purchases...

OBAMA: Background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun.

KARL: None of that happened. Isn't this year only going to be harder?

CARNEY: Those were calls for action that involved Congress. The president is very disappointed that the Senate failed to heed the will of the vast majority of the American people when it came to expanding background checks

On immigration reform, we're actually optimistic that 2014 will be the year that Congress delivers to the president's desk a bipartisanship, comprehensive immigration reform bill that meets the principles he laid out and that he can sign into law.

KARL: But it's what the president has already signed into law...

OBAMA: We are done.

KARL: His signature achievement health care reform, that's shaping up to be the biggest headache for Democrats in 2014. Our poll shows 59 percent disapprove of how Obamacare has been implemented. And conservative groups are blasting Democratic candidates over Obamacare.

ANNOUNCER: Obamacare doesn't work.

KARL: Will it have been worth it if you lose the Senate? I mean you already lost the House because of the health care law.

CARNEY: Look, I'll tell you what...

KARL: Will it have been worth it politically?

CARNEY: Expanding access to quality and affordable health insurance to millions of Americans, reducing the growth in health care costs, which is happening...

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: Would it have been worth it if you lose the Senate?

I mean you already lost the House because of the health care law.

CARNEY: Look, I'll tell you what...

KARL: Will it have been worth it politically?

CARNEY: Expanding access to quality and affordable health insurance to millions of Americans, reducing the growth in health care costs, which is happening at a rate...

KARL: Would it have been worth it if you lose the Senate?

CARNEY: You know what...

KARL: That's a simple...

CARNEY: -- this is not about politics. So the answer is, it is absolutely worth it, no matter what happens politically...

KARL: Even if you lose the Senate?

CARNEY: -- because what -- and I tell you -- and I just -- I just disagree that Republicans are going to have a winning issue on this, if they decide to run on it, because they've got to explain what repeal means.

KARL (voice-over): In the State of the Union Tuesday, a key focus for the president, income inequality. But many Republicans say the president is to blame for raising poverty, as Senator Tim Scott told my colleague, Jeff Zeleny.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I mean seven million more Americans are living in poverty today that were not in poverty when Bush was leaving office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARNEY: I assume Senator Scott didn't notice that, you know, a lot of people were thrown into poverty by the worst recession since the Great Depression, which was in full bloom when President Obama was sworn into office.

KARL (on camera): But the president has had five years, Jay. I mean...

CARNEY: And...

KARL: -- five years. And the -- the economic crisis is in the rearview mirror. The Bush years are in the rearview mirror.

And he hasn't been able to turn this around.

Doesn't the president bear some responsibility -- his policies -- for the fact that the poverty rate in America has gone up and the gap between rich and poor is only greater?

CARNEY: What I can tell you, Jon, is that the -- the problem and the challenge the president has identified has been one in the making for over 30 years.

KARL (voice-over): Then there's the criticism leveled by the executive editor of "The New York Times," who called the Obama White House "the most secretive White House I have ever been involved in covering."

(on camera): You covered White Houses as a reporter for "Time Magazine."

So would Jay Carney, reporter, correspondent, bureau chief for "Time" magazine, be satisfied with the level of openness and transparency of this White House?

CARNEY: Well, Jay Carney, reporter, would never be satisfied with, uh, the amount of information that any White House or any Congressional office...

KARL: But Jay Carney would fight with Jay Carney.

CARNEY: Well, what I would tell you is that you and all of your colleagues and my former colleagues in the press absolutely have to be beating on us and others around Washington to get as much information as you can. And I strongly disagree with that statement. I know from experience that it's wrong. And, you know, we provide an extraordinary amount of information and access to reporters. And we work every day to, uh, to provide more.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

KARL: And now the roundtable, former Pennsylvania senator and presidential candidate, Rick Santorum; Van Jones, co-host of CNN's "Crossfire"; Cokie Roberts, who has written a new book, out Tuesday, "Founding Mothers;" and Greta Van Susteren of Fox News.

So, you know, Jay talked about how they want to bypass Congress and they're clearly not going to judge the success this year based on what they pass.

But, Cokie, we see the headlines this week and that actually, Republicans are talking about moving forward on immigration reform.

Can the president finally get what he's never had, a bipartisan legislative accomplishment?

COKIE ROBERTS, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, they did have the budget agreement last week, which he signed, those 1,600 pages...

KARL: Well, that's kind of like...

ROBERTS: Well, that's...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: But at least that...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: -- oh, that's...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll take it.

ROBERTS: -- that's a big change.

But, look, the Republicans are understanding that their own self-interests means immigration reform. And the question is, can they get past these primaries or the filing deadlines for the Republican primaries, and then do an immigration bill?

And they're going to discover this weekend...

KARL: Does it happen?

Do you think it happens?

ROBERTS: I think it does happen. I think it happens in pieces and you put together a different coalition on each piece. So you have one group of congressmen voting for border security, another group voting for legalization, another group...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: -- voting for visas for high end workers. You go -- you go bit by bit and then bring it to conference with the Senate.

KARL: Senator Santorum...

RICK SANTORUM (R-PA), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's...

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: -- that's a very tall order. That's -- it's a -- I -- I've never seen that done in Congress. I mean you get these big bills and that's how these things pass. And it's very, very hard to get all those component parts together and get a consensus, particularly when you have a president who has been as, uh, vindictive as this president has been in attacking his Republicans for a variety of -- on a variety of issues...

KARL: But not on immigration. I mean he's actually trying...

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: -- trying to get a deal with the Republicans.

SANTORUM: Well, the -- there's a difference between trying to get a deal and actually putting something forward that's a compromise. The president has -- has been pretty insistent that this is the...

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: -- his way or the highway.

KARL: -- everything but -- but alligator moats in the water, right?

(LAUGHTER)

KARL: I mean that's only one aspect (INAUDIBLE)...

VAN JONES, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": I think that's right. I think -- I think we will get something done on immigration. This president is going to start climbing out of this hole. This is not the make or break moment, but it's the first step in a new conversation with the American people.

Here's -- here's the reality. 2014 is not about fixing stuff, it's about fix -- affixing blame.

Who is responsible?

Is it the ObamaCare economy or is it the obstruction economy?

Is this Republicans standing in the way of common sense stuff like immigration reform, like roads and bridges?

And I think the president has got to lay out, here's some common sense stuff we can do that would make America better and then challenge the Republicans to come along.

If they don't, I think he gets a chance to run against -- or -- an obstruction economy, not an ObamaCare economy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God, he's been doing that for three years.

ROBERTS: Exactly.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS: Well, actually, that's the -- I was just going to say to Van, the problem is, is that, you know, blaming has not been very successful. And when kids do it in the schoolyard, you pull them apart. You know, blaming is not a really successful way to get something accomplished.

You know, leadership sort of overcomes that and that's something that he has not been particularly successful at doing, is -- is leading.

I realize he has a divided Congress, but remember, he had a -- in 2010, when he gave that immigration speech, he had the House and the Senate and did nothing on immigration.

As for immigration, doing a -- a grand bill, we saw what a grand bill did when we did a grand bill on health care. So I actually think that Cokie is right and doing it piecemeal has much greater success.

I don't think the -- I don't think our government can do these grand things that everybody thinks.

KARL: Well...

ROBERTS: Yes, but, you know, the -- the problem that the Republicans are facing, and they are very well aware of it, is somewhat of what Van is saying, is that the American people -- and our poll is showing this today -- are just fed up. I mean there's 27 percent are saying reelect my member of Congress. Only 27 percent.

So they've really got to guard against a wave election, where the whole attitude is just throw the bums out, nobody is getting any (INAUDIBLE)...

KARL: And you have that astounding number in there, that only 37 percent trust the president to make the right decisions.

ROBERTS: But only 19...

KARL: It was...

ROBERTS: -- percent trust the Republicans in Congress.

KARL: It was even lower for Democrats...

ROBERTS: Right.

KARL: -- and even lower again...

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: Right. And I want to say...

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: -- something about that, which I thought, you know, you mentioned that the -- the president didn't fix everything in the two years. You know, all he did was save the economy, all he did was save the auto industry. All he did was pro...

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: -- I mean he -- he got an awful lot done. And -- but you know what, the last time...

KARL: Well, legislatively, he sure got a lot done.

JONES: He get...

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: -- he got a lot done. And then here's the reality. The Republicans want to blame this president for even though. The last time I saw this president at a signing ceremony where Republicans let him sign, you know what, the last time he had black hair and he looked like Tiger Woods, OK? (LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: Now he looks like Morgan Freeman.

KARL: But...

JONES: Why?

Because the Republicans will not support him on anything.

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: -- own bills, even on their own priorities.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: They're responsible for his gray hair?

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: Well, at least in part, I think. But -- but, Van, if you look at one other number in our poll, you look at Democrat versus Republican for Congress...

ROBERTS: Right.

KARL: -- this is a real warning sign...

ROBERTS: Right.

KARL: -- for Democrats.

ROBERTS: Absolutely.

KARL: Look, you see Republicans actually statistically tied, but actually with -- with an advantage. I mean Senator Santorum, you've seen that before, in 1994...

SANTORUM: Yes, this...

KARL: -- and 2010.

SANTORUM: -- well, look, it -- the fact is, he can't run away. You try to get -- Jay Carney tried, again, to bring up George Bush. And it's, you know, the problems that the president had. Nobody is buying that anymore.

This is the president's economy. This is the president's decision. And -- and the fact that it's been so long between signing ceremonies tells you that he can't get anything done because he...

JONES: That Republicans won't let him get anything done.

SANTORUM: -- because he doesn't...

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: -- he doesn't -- he doesn't cooperate.

VAN SUSTEREN: But wait a minute. SANTORUM: He -- he's very...

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: He doesn't. He does not cooperate.

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: But Van...

SANTORUM: Given -- look at -- look at what Jay Carney just said. You know, we're willing to go and -- and put things forward, but if you don't, we're going to take out our pen and we're going to do it ourselves.

You know what, that's what he's been doing...

VAN SUSTEREN: You know what...

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: And that is not constructive.

VAN SUSTEREN: President Obama sometimes acts like he's the only one who had political opposition. That's sort of part of the game.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean every politician has opposition on the other side. Look at how much President Clinton got done and he was -- he had been impeached and was -- and was on trial to get thrown out and he got things done.

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: You can't keep blaming everybody...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: -- saying now, that this is not the most partisan time in our history. He has now been going back and reading his history and understanding that that's the case. And so that he has to learn to deal with it.

It's -- the really dangerous thing, I think, for him and for the Democrats in this poll that -- and that he's going to have to think about as he makes the State of the Union message, is -- is that more people say that the Republicans have the right idea about the size and role of the federal government...

KARL: That's a fundamental question.

ROBERTS: -- than the Democrats do. And that is the fundamental question between the two parties.

KARL: All right. And we can imagine if the Republicans take over the Senate, Van.

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: Opposition -- I mean...

JONES: Well, you know, there's a couple of things I think we have to -- to keep in mind here. This is a president who, for -- for all of the problems that he has right now, is actually presiding over a healing economy. The economy actually is moving forward. People know it and feel it. People want more. And there are...

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: -- 74,000 jobs. So we -- we've got to...

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: He can put things forward and will put things forward in this speech that nobody can disagree with that could be done this year. And it's up to Republicans to meet him halfway to get it done.

KARL: OK. All right. We're just getting started.

Up next, the stunning story of a political power couple accused of breaking the law to live a lifestyle worthy of the rich and famous.

Also, we welcome a special guest who scored a big exclusive with Chris Christie.

And later, we shine our Sunday spotlight on the Arkansas Senate showdown and the man some say could be a Republican Bill Clinton.

KARL: And now the roundtable, former Pennsylvania senator and presidential candidate, Rick Santorum; Van Jones, co-host of CNN's "Crossfire"; Cokie Roberts, who has written a new book, out Tuesday, "Founding Mothers;" and Greta Van Susteren of Fox News.

So, you know, Jay talked about how they want to bypass Congress and they're clearly not going to judge the success this year based on what they pass.

But, Cokie, we see the headlines this week and that actually, Republicans are talking about moving forward on immigration reform.

Can the president finally get what he's never had, a bipartisan legislative accomplishment?

COKIE ROBERTS, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, they did have the budget agreement last week, which he signed, those 1,600 pages...

KARL: Well, that's kind of like...

ROBERTS: Well, that's...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: But at least that...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: -- oh, that's...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll take it.

ROBERTS: -- that's a big change.

But, look, the Republicans are understanding that their own self-interests means immigration reform. And the question is, can they get past these primaries or the filing deadlines for the Republican primaries, and then do an immigration bill?

And they're going to discover this weekend...

KARL: Does it happen?

Do you think it happens?

ROBERTS: I think it does happen. I think it happens in pieces and you put together a different coalition on each piece. So you have one group of congressmen voting for border security, another group voting for legalization, another group...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: -- voting for visas for high end workers. You go -- you go bit by bit and then bring it to conference with the Senate.

KARL: Senator Santorum...

RICK SANTORUM (R-PA), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's...

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: -- that's a very tall order. That's -- it's a -- I -- I've never seen that done in Congress. I mean you get these big bills and that's how these things pass. And it's very, very hard to get all those component parts together and get a consensus, particularly when you have a president who has been as, uh, vindictive as this president has been in attacking his Republicans for a variety of -- on a variety of issues...

KARL: But not on immigration. I mean he's actually trying...

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: -- trying to get a deal with the Republicans.

SANTORUM: Well, the -- there's a difference between trying to get a deal and actually putting something forward that's a compromise. The president has -- has been pretty insistent that this is the...

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: -- his way or the highway.

KARL: -- everything but -- but alligator moats in the water, right?

(LAUGHTER)

KARL: I mean that's only one aspect (INAUDIBLE)...

VAN JONES, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": I think that's right. I think -- I think we will get something done on immigration. This president is going to start climbing out of this hole. This is not the make or break moment, but it's the first step in a new conversation with the American people.

Here's -- here's the reality. 2014 is not about fixing stuff, it's about fix -- affixing blame.

Who is responsible?

Is it the ObamaCare economy or is it the obstruction economy?

Is this Republicans standing in the way of common sense stuff like immigration reform, like roads and bridges?

And I think the president has got to lay out, here's some common sense stuff we can do that would make America better and then challenge the Republicans to come along.

If they don't, I think he gets a chance to run against -- or -- an obstruction economy, not an ObamaCare economy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God, he's been doing that for three years.

ROBERTS: Exactly.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS: Well, actually, that's the -- I was just going to say to Van, the problem is, is that, you know, blaming has not been very successful. And when kids do it in the schoolyard, you pull them apart. You know, blaming is not a really successful way to get something accomplished.

You know, leadership sort of overcomes that and that's something that he has not been particularly successful at doing, is -- is leading.

I realize he has a divided Congress, but remember, he had a -- in 2010, when he gave that immigration speech, he had the House and the Senate and did nothing on immigration.

As for immigration, doing a -- a grand bill, we saw what a grand bill did when we did a grand bill on health care. So I actually think that Cokie is right and doing it piecemeal has much greater success.

I don't think the -- I don't think our government can do these grand things that everybody thinks.

KARL: Well...

ROBERTS: Yes, but, you know, the -- the problem that the Republicans are facing, and they are very well aware of it, is somewhat of what Van is saying, is that the American people -- and our poll is showing this today -- are just fed up. I mean there's 27 percent are saying reelect my member of Congress. Only 27 percent.

So they've really got to guard against a wave election, where the whole attitude is just throw the bums out, nobody is getting any (INAUDIBLE)...

KARL: And you have that astounding number in there, that only 37 percent trust the president to make the right decisions.

ROBERTS: But only 19...

KARL: It was...

ROBERTS: -- percent trust the Republicans in Congress.

KARL: It was even lower for Democrats...

ROBERTS: Right.

KARL: -- and even lower again...

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: Right. And I want to say...

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: -- something about that, which I thought, you know, you mentioned that the -- the president didn't fix everything in the two years. You know, all he did was save the economy, all he did was save the auto industry. All he did was pro...

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: -- I mean he -- he got an awful lot done. And -- but you know what, the last time...

KARL: Well, legislatively, he sure got a lot done.

JONES: He get...

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: -- he got a lot done. And then here's the reality. The Republicans want to blame this president for even though. The last time I saw this president at a signing ceremony where Republicans let him sign, you know what, the last time he had black hair and he looked like Tiger Woods, OK? (LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: Now he looks like Morgan Freeman.

KARL: But...

JONES: Why?

Because the Republicans will not support him on anything.

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: -- own bills, even on their own priorities.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: They're responsible for his gray hair?

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: Well, at least in part, I think. But -- but, Van, if you look at one other number in our poll, you look at Democrat versus Republican for Congress...

ROBERTS: Right.

KARL: -- this is a real warning sign...

ROBERTS: Right.

KARL: -- for Democrats.

ROBERTS: Absolutely.

KARL: Look, you see Republicans actually statistically tied, but actually with -- with an advantage. I mean Senator Santorum, you've seen that before, in 1994...

SANTORUM: Yes, this...

KARL: -- and 2010.

SANTORUM: -- well, look, it -- the fact is, he can't run away. You try to get -- Jay Carney tried, again, to bring up George Bush. And it's, you know, the problems that the president had. Nobody is buying that anymore.

This is the president's economy. This is the president's decision. And -- and the fact that it's been so long between signing ceremonies tells you that he can't get anything done because he...

JONES: That Republicans won't let him get anything done.

SANTORUM: -- because he doesn't...

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: -- he doesn't -- he doesn't cooperate.

VAN SUSTEREN: But wait a minute. SANTORUM: He -- he's very...

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: He doesn't. He does not cooperate.

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: But Van...

SANTORUM: Given -- look at -- look at what Jay Carney just said. You know, we're willing to go and -- and put things forward, but if you don't, we're going to take out our pen and we're going to do it ourselves.

You know what, that's what he's been doing...

VAN SUSTEREN: You know what...

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: And that is not constructive.

VAN SUSTEREN: President Obama sometimes acts like he's the only one who had political opposition. That's sort of part of the game.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean every politician has opposition on the other side. Look at how much President Clinton got done and he was -- he had been impeached and was -- and was on trial to get thrown out and he got things done.

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: You can't keep blaming everybody...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: -- saying now, that this is not the most partisan time in our history. He has now been going back and reading his history and understanding that that's the case. And so that he has to learn to deal with it.

It's -- the really dangerous thing, I think, for him and for the Democrats in this poll that -- and that he's going to have to think about as he makes the State of the Union message, is -- is that more people say that the Republicans have the right idea about the size and role of the federal government...

KARL: That's a fundamental question.

ROBERTS: -- than the Democrats do. And that is the fundamental question between the two parties.

KARL: All right. And we can imagine if the Republicans take over the Senate, Van.

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: Opposition -- I mean...

JONES: Well, you know, there's a couple of things I think we have to -- to keep in mind here. This is a president who, for -- for all of the problems that he has right now, is actually presiding over a healing economy. The economy actually is moving forward. People know it and feel it. People want more. And there are...

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: -- 74,000 jobs. So we -- we've got to...

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: He can put things forward and will put things forward in this speech that nobody can disagree with that could be done this year. And it's up to Republicans to meet him halfway to get it done.

KARL: OK. All right. We're just getting started.

Up next, the stunning story of a political power couple accused of breaking the law to live a lifestyle worthy of the rich and famous.

Also, we welcome a special guest who scored a big exclusive with Chris Christie.

And later, we shine our Sunday spotlight on the Arkansas Senate showdown and the man some say could be a Republican Bill Clinton.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KARL: Lots more "Roundtable" coming up. Plus, the director who got an all-access pass to the Romney campaign.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON: Now you just wait a minute, Book of Mormon.

(LAUGHTER)

FALLON: You keep talking like that and people are going to start thinking you're running for president.

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Jimmy, I'm not running again. There are a lot of great candidates for 2016, and I'll be supporting the Republican nominee 100 percent.

FALLON: Don't you mean 47 percent?

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: That's a low blow. But it's pretty funny.

FALLON: I had to do it, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: A side of Mitt Romney we rarely saw during his White House run. And now a new documentary is pulling back the curtain even more. Director Greg Whiteley got the kind of access we have just never seen before with a presidential candidate. This weekend his film hits your Netflix queue.

Once again, Martha Raddatz.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC SENIOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You might have heard Mitt Romney is a little stiff.

ROMNEY: Who let the dogs out? Who, who?

RADDATZ: But those close to him always said if only Americans knew the real Mitt. A new documentary, screened at Sundance last week, and released on Friday, introduces anyone with a Netflix subscription to the real Mitt.

Who is he? If you're looking for the hard-working family man with deeply held values, you'll find him.

ROMNEY: Oh, hi there, Parker, how are you doing, Parker?

RADDATZ: If you're looking for the isolated plutocrat, well, he's there too, the man who isn't too familiar with irony.

ROMNEY: Ouch.

RADDATZ: But what comes across most in "Mitt," the documentary, is how real it feels. The whole Romney family, baring all.

ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: These aren't tears of sorrow. These are tears of gratitude.

RADDATZ: What svengali earned the family's trust? Unassuming young Greg Whiteley.

GREG WHITELEY, DIRECTOR, "MITT": I don't think I have a special skill that allows people to relax around me. I liken it to nature photography. You've just got to hang out until the animals become...

RADDATZ (on camera): Accustomed to this?

WHITELEY: Yes, until they relax enough to mate around you. And then you've got gold.

(LAUGHTER)

RADDATZ (voice-over): Doing the red carpet walk with family at Sundance, Romney himself attested to Whiteley's charm.

ROMNEY: If Michael Moore were to say, I'd like to come follow you, I think I'd say, probably not. But we got to meet Greg and felt comfortable with him.

RADDATZ: The nuanced portrait Whiteley achieved is enough to give journalists a complex. On a walk in Park City, Whiteley talked about the press corps he observed firsthand.

WHITELEY: It is strange, isn't it, that there's this gigantic plane, and two-thirds of the plane is filled with reporters whose sole job is to uncover the truth of who Mitt Romney is. And then it seems to be that one-third of the plane is filled with people trying to prevent the reporters from finding out what the truth is about Mitt Romney.

RADDATZ (on camera): And then you're on the plane going, if they only knew.

WHITELEY: Yes, that's right. That's right.

RADDATZ (voice-over): But did the intimacy compromise his objectivity? The filmmaker is quick to come to Romney's defense.

WHITELEY: Nowadays we want our politicians to be really cool, you know? We want them to have not just presidential-like qualities, but we want them to be cool too. And I wonder if Mitt just finds that really strange.

RADDATZ (on camera): Are you saying Mitt Romney is not cool?

WHITELEY: Well, yes, I am saying that. Look, he's not cool like Barack Obama is cool. I think it's such a strange standard to put in place in the first place.

ROMNEY: I did everything I could, left it all on the field.

RADDATZ (voice-over): The campaign took its toll on his subject.

WHITELEY: When I look at the footage between 2008 and 2012, there's just a certain fire, I think, that I think it's hard to sustain. There seemed to be a spark in his eye that was missing.

RADDATZ: But the movies are all about second acts. And the so-called liberal Hollywood elite, for one, has a new darling.

Martha Raddatz, ABC News, Park City, Utah.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: Thanks to Martha Raddatz. Back with our "Roundtable." Plus, our special guest, another seat at the table, Matt Bai, political columnist for Yahoo! News, whose column debuted this week with an exclusive interview with Chris Christie.

We'll get to that in a minute. But first, I want to look at the stunning fall of another former Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, who, along with his wife, was indicted this week for violating federal corruption laws.

The details of the indictment were shocking. Take a look at this list. Allegations they traded political favors and access for gifts and loans from a wealthy supporter, including a $20,000 shopping spree, a Rolex watch, use of a Ferrari, and even paying for their daughter's wedding.

This week the former governor defended himself, and pleaded not guilty.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB MCDONNELL (R), FORMER VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: I will use every available resource and advocate that I have for as long as it takes to fight and prevail against these false allegations, and the unjust overreach of the federal government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: OK. Greta, he may or may not be guilty. He'll have his day in court. But how, in this day and age, does a political leader think he can get away with accepting gifts like that from a supporter?

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. You read that and you think that he's toast. It is a horrible indictment. One side of it has got Ferrari, Rolex, everything about it you just hate the former first family of Virginia.

But here's the tip. We read in The Washington Post that they were offered one felony to get rid of, the 28 counts indictment. And if he accepted one felony, 14 counts of hers would go away, she would walk away from it, and 13 of his.

That's the most fantastic plea offer ever.

KARL: And he turned it down.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, but here's the (INAUDIBLE). The only reason that a prosecutor gives you that kind of fantastic deal, especially in Virginia, is because they have a weak case. The quid pro quo is weak.

Otherwise they would never give you a deal like that.

KARL: I've got to ask you, Senator Santorum, because you're a guy -- I mean, you served in Congress, you served in the Senate, did you have people coming up offering you this kind of stuff? And what would you do if somebody offered you...

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: No.

KARL: Really?

SANTORUM: No. I'm actually...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're insulted.

SANTORUM: I'm...

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: I don't know how you could think you could take any of this, I mean, even if there is no quid pro quo. And maybe that's the law in Virginia, you're allowed to accept gifts, and that's OK.

But it's not OK. I mean, even if the...

VAN SUSTEREN: That's a different issue. That's the ethics. That's disgusting and gross, but whether he goes to prison...

ROBERTS: But the senator a really important point. It's just not OK. And, in fact, in Congress, when he was there, they changed the rules on all of this because people would say in Congress, oh, well, you know, he's my friend taking me to dinner.

And then you would say to them, well, do you ever take him to dinner? Because, you know, that's what friends do. They go back and forth. Well, no, actually, it's all one-sided.

And when you said that to a member of Congress, they got it.

JONES: Right.

ROBERTS: They get it right away.

JONES: But one of the things...

ROBERTS: And they changed the rules to make it on -- against the ethics...

JONES: This is a bigger...

ROBERTS: -- rules to do that.

JONES: -- this is a bigger problem, though. It's a -- it's a bigger problem for Republicans and a bigger part -- problem for the country.

When the shutdown was going on, all you heard was, well, we may have some wacko birds in the Republican Party in Congress, but look at our great governors.

Now, look at the governors. You've got Chris Christie, who's now not worried about the...

KARL: You're not going to compare Christie to Bob McDonnell, are you?

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: But let me -- let me finish. Let me make my point. Yes, actually, I am. You've got...

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: I -- I am. You've got...

ROBERTS: Why not?

JONES: -- you've got McDonnell, who's now under criminal indictment and you've got a criminal investigation under Chris Christie. So the Republican Party has a problem, because if you look at what's going on now, some of their leading stars -- McDonnell was a leading light to be able -- a -- a presidential candidate. He might be in prison.

Chris Christie has to worry more about the court of law than the court of public opinion.

And I think the Republican Party is going to have a (INAUDIBLE)...

ROBERTS: You know what?

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: I think you're right...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: -- I'll tell you, I think Van is right...

KARL: That's a stretch.

VAN SUSTEREN: -- because...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: -- it rattles -- it rattles the Republican Party and it's a distraction. So I think it actually hurts...

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: All right, Matt...

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: -- but when Matt Bai is the one guy who sat down with Chris Christie...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He did.

KARL: -- the only one to do so, the only national reporter since that -- that -- that press conference, the famous press conference, what -- what's your take?

MATT BAI, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: You know, I think looking at 2016, I mean I asked him specifically, right, about 2016. And he said -- I said -- I reminded him he said he wasn't ready when we had talked about it in 2011. He said I'm readier. I'm thinking about it.

And then you think, well, how can that be, in a week where you're seeing your poll numbers plummet, in a week where you're seeing this kind of controversy?

He said something interesting to me. Governor Christie said, you know, for all the reasons that I've had such an awful week and this has been all over the news and if, you know, it's been the lead story everywhere, I have more time -- I have the luxury of time in making a decision about 2016.

And what he means by that is he's a well enough known national figure, right, that if cable news networks...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well...

BAI: -- are going to carry his State of the State Address...

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: -- not going to be a problem.

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: But -- but doesn't he think this has hurt him?

I mean...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I'm sure he knows it's hurt him.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: -- telling you he's learned lessons, but he wasn't sure what they were.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I mean it...

VAN SUSTEREN: And even at...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's too smart to know it hasn't hurt him, but he also -- but he's also smart enough to know, I would say, you know, we don't know what revelations are coming. This thing is all contingent on what else there is in these investigations.

But, you know, these poll numbers move around. We're very early...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Poll numbers move around...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll tell you what's not going to move around...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: I'll tell you a...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- four things...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- he's got four things he's got to do at the same time. He has to be born on Krypton to do all four well.

He's got to run the state of New Jersey.

He's got to run the Republican Governors Association.

He's got to run for president and deal with these investigations.

He's going to be born on krypton to do all four things well.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: -- bigger problem for the Republican...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: -- is libido. Mike Huckabee talking about women's libido and birth control is a much bigger problem.

KARL: He stole the show at the Republican meeting.

ROBERTS: And a...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: And that's (INAUDIBLE).

KARL: But on 2016, I've got to show you this poll, OK. Now and 2016 polls are a little ridiculous this far out, but take a look at the leaders here. Thirteen, 13, 12, 11 percent. No -- this is the first time that we've had a Republican nomination contest where there is absolutely nobody that can lay claim to the title of frontrunner.

ROBERTS: Rick Santorum.

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: -- Rick Santorum...

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: They tried right now. But I mean this is...

SANTORUM: Well, someone did win 11 states in the last primary.

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: And a...

JONES: Well, that...

SANTORUM: -- and, you know...

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: -- and, look, I -- I think that's a -- that's a good thing. I mean we're -- we -- you know, we -- we have, on the other side, the anointed candidate. And that's -- that's going to be a problem for them in the long term. I -- I guarantee you, that's going to be a problem because it's...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- talk about that.

JONES: -- there will be -- Hillary Clinton. There will be a focal -- a focus on her and it will be, you know, death by 1,000 cuts over the next 30 -- three years.

On the Republican side, the Democrats have a big disadvantage. They have no one to shoot their guns at. And I mean they'll shoot at Chris Christie for now. But I -- I'm someone who, in July of 2011, there were six leaders in Iowa between July in 2011 and January of 2012.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

SANTORUM: That's -- that's not a bad thing for the Republican Party, to sort of sort this out...

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: -- find out who...

JONES: -- you think the primaries you guys went through was a good thing for your party last time?

It was good for our party.

SANTORUM: It would have been better had...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- to avoid it.

SANTORUM: -- been resolved, but...

(LAUGHTER)

SANTORUM: -- but it, but what -- no, it's not a bad thing for...

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: -- for there to be...

JONES: Senator, I...

SANTORUM: -- for there to be controversy...

JONES: -- I disagree with you when it...

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: -- in the party.

JONES: -- when it -- when it comes to the Democrats and Hillary Clinton right now, you're seeing some very interesting dynamics.

First of all, the old -- the new establishment, the Obama establishment, Priorities USA, has already moved into the Hillary Clinton camp. So you have both of the Democratic old establishment and new establishment united. It opens up the door for some populists, but in the -- here's what's going to happen to you guys.

Whoever gets your nomination is going to have to run against four of us -- Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Obama and Michelle Obama. Four...

KARL: All right, well, it's...

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: But look, we had two cover stories on Hillary Clinton this week, including this kind of creepy one...

ROBERTS: Right.

KARL: -- "The New York Times" magazine showing "Planet."..

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was creepy.

KARL: -- "Planet Hillary."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was creepy.

KARL: But -- but, Cokie, I mean...

ROBERTS: I mean they...

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: Can the Democrats really avoid a primary?

Is that -- is that really -- I mean this is...

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: -- we've never seen this happen before.

ROBERTS: No, they won't avoid a primary. (CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: There will be a primary. But that might be a big benefit to her, if she can do very well in primaries and show that she can -- is a winner.

But, you know, I'm not 100 percent sure that Hillary Clinton is going to run. I mean I think she's not 100 percent sure that she's going to run. And -- and it's going to be interesting to see if somebody who's, you know, young and with new ideas and all of that can rise up.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: I don't know who that would be, but...

VAN SUSTEREN: It's O'Malley.

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: -- Governor O'Malley...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: Because, you know what, I'm not convinced Hillary is going to run either.

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm not convinced at all, because remember in 2008 how convinced we all were that she was going to win?

And I think that when you look at these poll numbers and see how dissatisfied people are, I think that the -- the old guard...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: -- the regular...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will say, and I -- I'm not being on predictions, she cannot clear the field and she cannot run with just token opposition. Everything we know about modern politics and the modern presidential process...

ROBERTS: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- flies in the face of that. We don't live in that world anymore. Just being the frontrunner...

JONES: Governors...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- creates serious opposition...

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: Governor Schweizer...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- Montana.

JONES: Governor Schweizer...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One Republican.

JONES: -- is coming on strong. Just putting together, frankly, the new establishment and the old establishment together only gives you about half the party. And the other half is looking for a populist, a dark horse. I put my money on Governor Schweizer.

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: OK, we had a prediction here.

VAN SUSTEREN: And plus he's running against Obama. He's running against President Obama, a Democrat running against President Obama's...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: -- record.

KARL: Conservative on some issues.

ROBERTS: Right.

KARL: Thank you very much.

A great roundtable.

Coming up, the men and women behind the president's words revealing the secrets to writing a standout State of the Union.

And our powerhouse puzzler -- we asked you to submit political trivia questions. We got some great responses. This week's puzzler comes from Kevin Treslinsky (ph) on Twitter.

"Which senator made cameo appearances in four -- yes, four -- Batman movies?"

Back in just two minutes to see if our roundtable and you can guess the answer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KARL: THIS WEEK'S puzzler -- which senator made cameos in four Batman movies?

Time to see if another guessed right on the roundtable.

Greta, let's start with you.

Let's see your answer.

VAN SUSTEREN: (INAUDIBLE) former Senator Rick Santorum but then I took the predictable, because...

KARL: Fred Thompson. Well, current senator is the question...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: -- it didn't say current in the question.

ROBERTS: OK.

KARL: Well, OK, but it was...

ROBERTS: I have Pat Leahy of Vermont. I don't know why I have that, except I have some memory of it.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That could be. I also thought former Senator Fred Thompson.

KARL: Fred Thompson. Well, as a senator, four as a senator?

JONES: I -- I said Fred Thompson.

KARL: Fred Thompson?

JONES: Was it?

KARL: (INAUDIBLE) see on TV.

Rick Santorum?

SANTORUM: Pat Leahy, Democrat of Vermont. That is the answer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No!

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: You and I have it.

KARL: And here he is in "The Dark Knight."

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: We're not intimidated by guns. You know, you remind me of my father and I hated my father.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: I think Heather Ledger stole that scene.

Think you can puzzle the roundtable?

Tweet us @thisweekabc using the hash tag, twpowerhousepuzzler.

Up next, the secrets behind the State of the Union.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARVILLE: I think the president should invite Peyton Manning to sit next to us. Not only is he an extraordinary football player and an extraordinary human being, he comes from an extraordinary family and he's a great role model for young people all over America.

MATALIN: I think the first lady should invite Marcus Luttrell, the lone survivor. So Americans can see on film, captured on film, what Americans fighting for freedom is really like in real life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: Some of our roundtable regulars picking who they'd like to see as the Obama's special guest at the State of the Union. More of their picks later.

And now a unique take on the president's make or break moment Tuesday from the men and women who have helped craft the commander in chief's words. It's a huge night for the president, but also for a White House speech writer.

We met four of them earlier this week right down the street.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States.

KARL: This is one of the most hyped, the most watched, arguably most important speeches a President gives, but it's a bear to write, isn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe the least gratifying.

MARY KATE CARY, SPEECH WRITER FOR GEORGE H.W. BUSH: It's a prize nobody wants.

KARL: You said you'd rather write the speech pardoning the turkey than the State of the Union?

CARY: Yeah, in a New York minute.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, 41ST PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He will not end up on anyone's dinner table, not this guy.

KARL: Hey, those can be fun.

CARY: Much more fun.

We had something like 22 senior staff or cabinet officers who got to edit the speech is in the staffing process before it went to the president. And that reconciliation process was just a total nightmare.

KARL: John, you're the most recent doing this, those weeks and days before the speech is done. Is there a kind of scramble?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is the most hectic time in the White House for a speech writer that you can imagine.

I mean, and you know there's 3:00 am, 4:00 am nights leading right up into the speech. No matter how far in advance you try to plan, you're always changing the speech up until the last minute.

KARL: Everybody wants their project mentioned in the State of the Union.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Suddenly speechwriters become very popular, suddenly the phone starts lighting up with calls from cabinet secretaries.

KARL: How do you respond to that, by the way?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, with great interest and respect and then you hang up the phone and then you pass it along through channels that will probably...

KARL: Eliminate the idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But, you know, some of them you've got to respond to because this is actually an exercise not just for the president but for the entire administration in setting priorities for the new year.

BUSH: We are Americans.

CARY: President Bush was the same way. And I think he was very cognizant of the fact that the State of the Union, each little agency had their moment there where they very carefully had it worded what they're priority was. And I think he was respectful of that.

KARL: So often the reason why they end up not being memorable is they're laundry lists, right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. You've got to cover everything. You've got 20 topics. The hard thing for the speechwriters is coming up with 20 transitions, but when people would come in with these suggestions and really sort of lean on the speechwriters to put these thing in. President Bush would actually notice that when it happened and he would call these things cram-ins. And he could pick them out with surgical precision and then remove them.

CARY: The thing I like -- aside from the laundry list and all the priorities is I'm always curious to see who the guests are going to be in the gallery. My style of speechwriting is I think great stories make great speeches and it started in '82 with Reagan when he did Lenny Skutnik.

RONALD REAGAN, 40TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we saw the heroism of one of our young government employees, Lenny Skutnik...

CARY: He dove into the icy waters and saved people from the Air Florida crash in Washington. And I think that's part of the charm of it, is seeing these Americans up in the gallery.

KARL: I wonder if we realized at the time when President Reagan did that, this would be something that would happen in every State of the Union since?

You know, distinguished Americans in the gallery that are referred to?

CARY: They call them Lenny Skutniks.

KARL: One of the most watched speeches a president will give, but almost never memorable.

We think of the few...

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, 32ND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will not be intimidated by the threats of dictators.

KARL: It's like the for freedom speech with FDR or the war on poverty speech with LBJ.

LYNDON JOHNSON, 36TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All-out war on human poverty and unemployment in these United States.

KARL: So, John, will President Obama in this speech achieve that measure of immortality with his State of the Union?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone in the White House will say this is not going to be a laundry list this year and then by the time you get to the speech it's somewhat of a laundry list, just because, as you said, the president is giving his priorities for the country, for the year, on just about every topic foreign and domestic.

KARL: Jeff, as a speechwriter for President Clinton -- he holds the record for the longest State of the Union ever. He actually holds two records -- longest in time...

BILL CLINTON, 42ND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are fortunate to be alive...

And this is our moment.

KARL: And longest in words.

CLINTON: Again we are here in the sanctuary of democracy.

KARL: Those were two different speeches.

JEFF SHESOL, SPEECHWRITER FOR BILL CLINTON: I believe those records are going to stand for some time.

One of the tricks with the State of the Union, I always thought was how are you going to get into this speech? You have the visuals, which are so great and you have the salutations at the beginning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 2002 of the first one after 9/11, the first line was something like, as we gather tonight, our nation is at war.

GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ...as we gather tonight, our nation is at war, our economy is in recession and the civilized world faces unprecedented dangers, yet the state of our union has never been stronger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's rare when you're reporting so much bad news, so much ominous news, but that's the way to bring it home to declare that the state of our union was strong. And it was at that time.

KARL: In fact, Mary Kate, we've only seen one president, one time ever definitely state that the state of the union was not all that good.

GERALD FORD, 38TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I must say to you that the state of the union is not good.

CARY: And that was Gerry Ford right after Watergate.

The next year he said something that I liked...

FORD: The state of our union is better, in many ways a lot better, but still not good enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...find a way to do it. And there's variations -- you know, it's getting stronger, or we are strong.

BARACK: The state of our union is stronger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm there's like always some way to do it. But, you know, it's an important thing to validate it, I think.

KARL: OK, so let's go around the table on that. State of the Union is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Always strong.

KARL: Always strong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll just go with strong.

CARY: I like Gerry Ford better, but not good enough yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the state of the union is getting incrementally stronger and I would not suggest stating it that way in the speech, but I think...

KARL: Incrementally is never a good...

SHESOL: You know, in the 90s we were big on incrementalism, but...

KARL: Jeff, the -- we talk about the tinkering presidents changing, editing, I mean, nobody did it more than Bill Clinton.

SHESOL: There was a lot of rewriting. And the process with President Clinton on these big speeches was very collaborative. But by the time you're in the family theater, you're not supposed to be messing with the substance of the speech.

Now that didn't always work out that way.

KARL: Would President Clinton (INAUDIBLE) making changes on the way to the Capitol?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, he was...

KARL: Is that overstated?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is not overstated.

KARL: What is it that makes a great speechwriter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listening to your boss as much as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just focus on the matter at hand, and don't over-write.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You rarely get paragraphs crossed out and people say, no, no, no, that doesn't sound like me, or whatever. And if your attitude is, oh, you ruined my masterpiece, you're not going to last very long.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: All right. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe the first lady should invite Miles Scott back here, because he is a symbol of hope and resiliency.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They need to go hunt down some good cases that they can highlight of people that have been helped by Obamacare, instead of hurt by Obamacare. And then if that doesn't work, she might want to bring her personal trainer? Maybe we can all get down a routine on how do we get some of those famous arms?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the first lady should have an empty chair in her box to represent the millions of Americans who have been left out of the partisan political process in Washington, D.C., and who have felt absent from any economic gain over the last generation, and who feel like they don't have their voices heard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KARL: Now our "Sunday Spotlight." A new series from our ABC News political team, "14 for '14." We're breaking down the key races to watch this year. And we're starting with one of hottest Senate showdowns, pitting a veteran Democrat against a rising Republican star, with control of the Senate at stake.

Here's ABC's Jeff Zeleny in Arkansas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, ABC SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A few things are certain in Arkansas politics, the importance of a handshake, the annual raccoon supper, and a Pryor on the ballot.

Senator Mark Pryor's father, David, was also a senator, who started running for office nearly a half century ago. But as Mark Pryor fights for a third term, keeping that Democratic dynasty alive won't be easy.

Republicans have high hopes here. The party needs only six seats to win control of the Senate.

SEN. MARK PRYOR (D), ARKANSAS: I don't want to be cocky about it, I know I have a hard race on my hands. I completely understand what I'm up against here.

ZELENY: He's up against Tom Cotton, who Republicans see as a rising conservative star.

REP. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: I'm good, I'm good. Good to see you. Are you enjoying the campaign trail?

ZELENY (on camera): After only seven months as a congressman, you announced that you were running for the Senate. Some said you're in a hurry. Are you?

COTTON: I would say I am in a hurry. You know, I've been in Washington for a year now. And I've seen a lot of problems that need to be fixed.

ZELENY: You've been called one of the new faces of "hell no" caucus.

COTTON: Well, I would like to say yes. But if the president continues to propose higher taxes and more spending, then I will be saying no.

ZELENY (voice-over): Cotton grew up on a farm here in central Arkansas. It seems as if he has been preparing for this moment all his life. Two Harvard degrees, and two tours of duty, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And along the way, he grew up watching another kid from rural Arkansas rise from governor to the White House.

(on camera): What kind of effect did that have on a young boy from Arkansas?

COTTON: Well, it certainly got me interested in politics. It was really my first time to think much about politics or government.

ZELENY (voice-over): He may have drawn his inspiration from Clinton, but not his ideology. Even among the state's four other Republican congressmen, Cotton stands out. He was the only one to oppose a version of the farm bill because he said it spent too much money.

Pryor is using that and other votes to build his argument that Cotton is extreme.

PRYOR: That's one thing that we see with my opponent is that not only is he out of step with Arkansas, he's out of step with the Arkansas Republicans. I'm a more old school senator. I want to work in a very bipartisan way.

ZELENY: But are voters still in the market for a bipartisan senator, particularly in a state where President Obama's policies, like health care, are so unpopular?

(on camera): How big of a political weight is this around your neck?

PRYOR: You know, I think time will tell. I want the legislation to work. Here's the thing about my Republican colleagues in Washington. They do not want to see us fix this. They want it to fail.

ZELENY (voice-over): Millions of dollars have already been spent on television.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mark Pryor cast the deciding vote...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tom Cotton should be running, not for higher office, but running from his own record.

ZELENY: But Pryor hopes personal loyalty trumps party identity.

PRYOR: It's not about party labels. And Arkansas has a long history of splitting tickets.

COTTON: Thank you very much for letting me take part tonight.

ZELENY: Cotton, still unknown to many voters, has turned to his mother to help introduce him.

AVIS COTTON, TOM COTTON'S MOTHER: Christmas was harder when our son was in Afghanistan.

ZELENY: But as the band played on, there was Senator Pryor, shaking hands with Cotton's parents. He won't get their vote, but it's a good reminder, Democratic habits run deep. Even Cotton's parents had never voted Republican before.

COTTON: My father's first vote in a Republican primary was in 2012 for my race. And I had to convince him pretty hard to do that.

I think over time more Arkansans are realizing that at least in Washington, D.C., the Democratic Party doesn't stand for Arkansas values.

ZELENY: But Cotton must now convince voters that he does, one handshake at a time.

For THIS WEEK, Jeff Zeleny, ABC News, Gillett, Arkansas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: Thanks to Jeff. Check out our new series from the ABC News political team, "14 for '14" on abcnews.com, and submit your vote for the race you want us to cover.

And now we honor our fellow Americans who serve and sacrifice. The Pentagon this week released the name of one soldier killed in Afghanistan.

That's all for us today. Thank you for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News with David Muir" tonight, and join us Tuesday for the president's State of the Union Address. Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos will lead our coverage beginning at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 Pacific.

Have a great day.

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