NEW YORK, June 2, 2013 -- A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday morning, May 19, 2013 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form and has been updated.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, and welcome to This Week. Sunday showdown...
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PLOUFFE: We've moved more than halfway, which is a fair definition of compromise.
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ROVE: Abuse of their power and their offices to target conservatives.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: David Plouffe, Karl Rove, each guided two winning campaigns for president. Both tough strategists at the White House. Now they face off for the first time on our Powerhouse Roundtable, taking on all the weeks politics, the IRS and DOJ controversies.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was an arrogant abuse of power, and based on what the attorney general said, I don't see the conflict.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: A bold prediction for immigration and that farewell to Washington from a Tea Party star.
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BACHMANN: I am confident that this is the right decision.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: What it all means for the Obama agenda, the GOP and you. Rove and Plouffe, only on This Week.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Reporting from ABC News Headquarters, George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Hello again, let's get right to the most successful political strategists of our time, Democrat David Plouffe, Republican Karl Rove join our Powerhouse Roundtable, along with Arianna Huffington, Editor in Chief of the Huffington Post, the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot, and Gwen Ifill, the Moderator and Managing Editor of the NewsHour on PBS. And a lot to talk about.
Where I want to begin, it seems like after about a month of these controversies swirling around the White House, we're getting a sense of where the public is on all of this. The latest Quinnipiac Poll shows that far and away, Americans believe that the questions about the IRS targeting conservative groups are the most serious, followed by Benghazi and the seizing of AP phone records by the Justice Department. More than three-quarters believe a special prosecutor should be appointed to look into the matter.
And the drumbeat is starting to take a toll on President Obama's approval rating. It's underwater now. Almost half of the country disapproves of the job he's doing. So, David? How much damage has this all done? And how does the president get a handle on it?
PLOUFFE: Well first of all I think most polls, and I believe the president's approval rating is higher than that, but I think people should be concerned about the IRS. It touches everybody in America. And I think that as we move forward here, the key thing the American people want to know is, what is going to happen in terms of accountability? What changes are going to be put in place? And all of these things deserve thorough investigation. I think the real challenge, George is...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Special prosecutor?
PLOUFFE: No, and I think if you -- if people knew that the Department of Justice was engaged in a criminal investigation, you had Treasuring undertaking the IRS, a 30-day review. You had any number of congressional committees spending an inordinate amount of time on this, this is going to be looked into thoroughly, as it should be. The question is, is that all that Congress is going to do? Are we just going to be obsessed with scandal, and trying to score political points? Or, the American people cannot be screaming more loudly, worry about us. Work on the economy. You're -- you're send by us to do the job, to help us, to help the economy.
The economy continues to strengthen and grow. So we ought to look at all of these issues. And we ought to look at them thoroughly. And I -- I -- in the coming months, George, this is very important. Because my suspicion is Republicans in Congress will stay too obsessed. Kind of surfing scandals, trying to repeal Obamacare for the 40th time, and less on the economy, and doing the job they were sent...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you worry about that?
ROVE: I worry about it a little bit. I think David makes a -- a reasonable point. This has to be a concern for the administration too which has, if you dig deeper into the -- into the Quinnipiac poll, people don't think the economy is good, and they don't approve of the president's handling of the economy. Even in the ABC Washington Post poll several weeks ago. It was 48-48 disapproval on the economy. So I think it is important. But look, that will happen. Because we're going to pass a budget. We're going to have a battle over the debt ceiling.
We're going to have a question of whether or not we should continue the president's policy of trying to spend our way to prosperity, or whether we ought to get our fiscal house in order. So there will be plenty of time to -- to do that. But as -- the Republicans have to pay attention to that, I agree. Look there's a broader question here though, and this is where the administration is going to have a problem. This IRS thing cuts to the heart of a lot of people's concerns about intrusive government. And as we find out more facts, I think the facts are not going to be attractive.
We're going to find that the -- that the IRS targeted conservative political groups, not liberal groups. And that they targeted specific individuals, and they had outrageous requirements. Iowa Right to Life had to submit their prayers. People had to sign agreements not to protest in front of certain -- this is just ridiculous. This -- this is worthy of a third-world country, not the United STATES.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Paul you've been staying ahead on this thing as show in your paper, I think over the weekend, targeting of some Republicans on the gift tax for their -- their contributions to a nonprofit...
GIGOT: Yeah, I think that's the big vulnerability for the administration. How widespread was this? It started with the tax-exempt groups. So -- which Democratic Senators had said, you should look into because they're not -- they're posing as -- they're not social welfare programs, instead they're acting politically. But now we're seeing that it's -- that it's wider than this.
We already have a group, Z Street, which was a pro-Israeli group, which says it was targeted explicitly because it opposed settlements on the West Bank, which was of course different than the Obama administration policy. If it becomes that wide, and you get a lot of individuals, then there's trouble.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But Arianna, still nothing here touching the White House?
HUFFINGTON: No, not touching the White House. But there's no question that even a lot of Democrats are very upset about the way Holder has not just been pursuing what he's been pursuing in terms of leak investigations, but remember last year bragging to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he has investigated more cases than any previous administration. So, the IRS is a big problem that goes beyond the two parties. It's really about the whole status of 501(c)(4) and what are the about? You know, theoretically they are there to promote social welfare exclusively in one paragraph, primarily in another paragraph.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And they're not supposed to do too much politics?
HUFFINGTON: They're not supposed to do too much politics. I'm sure if we look at Crossroads GPS, you know it's all about politics...
ROVE: No. No. No.
ROVE: No. No. Please. Please. GPS, Crossroads GPS, an organization I helped create, but I don't run it. I'm not on the board, I'm not an officer. But the leadership knew right from the get-go they were going to be looked at closely. So the laws and rules that the IRS has promulgated for decades were followed very closely by GPS for exactly that. They knew they'd get extra scrutiny. Look, I -- I love this...
HUFFINGTON: So why don't you...
ROVE: ...no concern about...
ROVE: ...no concern about...
HUFFINGTON: (Inaudible) same problem with the left.
ROVE: Well, but you know what? You're the first person I've heard on the left say that. Because these groups, 501(c)(4) groups have been active for years on the Democratic side, on the liberal side. And there has been no criticism. There was no criticism from the left in 2000 when the NAACP voter fund spent $10 million to run an ad accusing George Bush of being a bigot. No concern on the left when Americans United for Change ran television ads targeting Republican Senators...
ROVE: ...up for re-election in 2007 and 2008 over the Iraq surge. So...
STEPHANOPOULOS: David, go ahead, and then I want to bring Gwen in?
PLOUFFE: Well, I'd say first of all, you know back in the previous -- or the prior administration, the NAACP was investigated after Republican members of Congress asked for it. But there's been no suggestion -- the independent -- the prosecutor looked at this -- excuse me, the inspector general, and said there was no politics involved in this. No one has indicated at all that the White House is involved. The IRS director was appointed at -- under President Bush, served under both presidents attested. No one from -- so, this was not a political pursuit.
PLOUFFE: No, no it wasn't, Karl.
ROVE: Boloney. Well if it was not political, then why are only conservative groups being targeted?
PLOUFFE: There were liberal groups targeted.
ROVE: Oh really? Name one. Name one.
ROVE: When a group had Tea Party or Patriot in its name, then it was targeted.
PLOUFFE: This was not...
ROVE: Not a single liberal group has -- has appeared to say...
PLOUFFE: You're taking great license here, Karl.
ROVE: No, I'm not.
ROVE: Not at all.
PLOUFFE: This was not an effort driven by the White House. It would be the dumbest political effort of all time, OK?
ROVE: I didn't suggest it was being driven by the White House. But I do think that when the president...
PLOUFFE: So you think some people in the Cincinnati office decided...
ROVE: No. No. I think people sitting in Cincinnati, Laguna Niguel, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. listen to people like Senator Max Baucus, Senator Chuck Schumer. President Obama -- when President Obama goes out in 2008 and -- 2010 and calls these groups, quote "A threat to the democracy.", he's -- he's blowing the dog whistle, and people heard it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you explain it when the administrator who was overseeing this went back and said, actually narrow the guidelines, was trying to get them to change it and they wouldn't do it?
ROVE: Well look, it -- that's my point. We have a culture at the IRS that has been going after conservative groups. And this administration has done an ineffective job of managing it. When this issue came up in 2010, if the administration was serious about it, President Obama should have picked up the phone, and called Geithner at Treasury and said, you'd better get your assistant secretary from Treasury or the undersecretary to check into this, because this is corrosive to our democracy to have the IRS targeting conservative groups.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to bring Gwen Ifill in on this because...
STEPHANOPOULOS: You were already Tweeting yesterday, it would be hard to get a word in edgewise. You were exactly right.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you have covered a lot of these scandals and so-called scandals. Where do you see this one going?
IFILL: I think that everybody is guilty of a little over-reach in these kinds of arguments. What these polls show is that Americans are saying, why aren't you talking about me? They're interested that the IRS might be targeting people unfairly, but they're not so interested that they want to know the details back and forth. They say well, the economy is going back. Does that mean that my teenage son is going to get a job this summer? Well, maybe not. And no one is talking about that.
When they -- there's not going to be a Kumbayah moment here. There's -- the politics is too ripe for all of that, there's no question. But when -- but you talk about the attorney general. The attorney general's job is to investigate leaks. I think if the leaks are damaging the national security, there's an argument to be made, that's what he's supposed to do. The question is whether he should be investigating journalists. And in fact, no journalist has ever been prosecuted for leaking.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And I do -- I do want to get to that right now. I -- I want to hold just one second, because I want to go back to one final question on the IRS with David. Given where it is right now, do you think President Obama has to be more aggressive, and actually order a house cleaning at the IRS?
PLOUFFE: Well there's a -- a review being undertaken by the acting commissioner, that Secretary Lew ordered. You've obviously got the Department of Justice looking into it, as I said, any number of congressional committees are going to spend months, and months looking at this. So I think when that review is done, if action needs to be taken, action will be taken. And I think that's what the American people want to know is, how do we make sure this doesn't happen again?
Because you know, there has to be trust in this agency. Obviously I think that -- and I -- I want to mention, you know the -- the you know Crossroads, the Koch brothers, Adelson's you know they drown us in money in the last election. So the notion that somehow this was a premeditated scheme to silence people, could not be further from the truth. There were some -- some IRS employees who did a dumb thing here in terms of managing that remarkable influx of applications. On the right and the left. They should have looked at everybody equally...
HUFFINGTON: But also this is a great opportunity to look at 501(c)(4)s. Because Karl, you have to admit that neither Crossroads, not a lot of liberal groups have anything to do with social welfare. They're really political operations hiding under 501(c)(4). A very complicated, very confusing IRS rule. But I agree with Gwen. I think if you look at the Quinnipiac poll, 73 percent of people want to focus on the economy, rather than these three scandals; Benghazi, IRS and the -- the leak investigations.
And, you know the president mentioned the middle-class and the economy in his weekly address. He's doing the Cincinnati jobs and economy tour on Thursday. But, you know David, given the focus of the -- in the election, both the '08 and the '12 election, this seems to be such an intermittent preoccupation. It seems like every now and then, the White House thinks of the middle-class and the economy...
PLOUFFE: ...you've got to be able to -- you've got to be able to do both of those at the same time. You've got to be able to focus on legislation with -- like, I agree immigration has its own political logic, you can do that separately. But, you cannot simply sit here and say, we're going to grow the government as large as we have in the last four or five years, and then not hold it accountable. You must look at how they are actually implementing these programs. And the -- the IRS is the point of the spear for most Americans...
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's why it hits home...
PLOUFFE: That's why it hits home, and...
PLOUFFE: ...we're expanding its role for health care a -- a great deal. So you have to hold it accountable.
ROVE: Yet the woman presiding over the tax-exempt division at the time that these things were undertaken, is now in charge of -- of implementing Obamacare.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is that a tenable situation?
PLOUFFE: Well, again there's a review going on. So I don't want to get ahead of that review. I'm sure that will be looked at in the course of the next weeks here.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about the DOJ investigation of -- of journalists. We had the seizing of the AP records by prosecutors. You also had this Fox News reporter, so Rosen was being targeted as well based on a leak he was getting from the State Department, very classified information concerning Korea. First, Eric Holder, the attorney general, said he knew -- did not ever contemplate prosecuting a journalist. Then it turns out that Mr. Rosen comes out as a co-conspirator in the documents when they're going after his records. That's caused members on Capitol Hill to call for Holder to go?
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SENSENBRENNER: Either Holder did sign off on an allegation that Rosen violated the Espionage Act, or he didn't know that that was in the affidavit that was filed in the court, and he doesn't know what's going on in his own department. In either case, he ought to resign and -- as he's lost the trust of Congress, and he's lost the trust of the American people.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: Gwen Ifill, the attorney general has tried to get on top of that this week, describing his -- friends describing a creeping sense of remorse over that targeting of James Rosen. He's met with several journalist organizations over the week on a kind of background...
STEPHANOPOULOS: ...background basis, which has caused a lot of consternation with some. Is he going to have to go?
IFILL: ...well you know how -- when it's about journalism, how it kind of navel-gazing we get for...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Right, the public doesn't seem to care about this.
IFILL: We care terribly, so it has to be important. But -- but here's -- there's not going to be a Kumbayah moment here. One of the interesting things that's coming out -- come out of these meetings with -- with newspaper bureau chiefs, and broadcast bureau chiefs in Washington is that it turns out, nobody knows how anybody does anybody's job. I guess I believe this, that it didn't occur to the people of the Justice Department that this is what reporters do all the time. That they go -- they -- they urge. That they try to get information, that they flatter.
The question to me becomes, to what end? Are we -- was -- it's not whistle-blowing we're talking about -- we're just talking about getting information, secret information, for secret information's sake. And so journalists have to look at our motives and our accountability in these matters, as well as the administration.
STEPHANOPOULOS: This is for Paul Gigot, they actually never contemplating prosecuting.
GIGOT: That's what they say.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think that's...
GIGOT: But if you read that affidavit, it's pretty scary. Because it does say, aider and abetter in a conspiracy to leak.
IFILL: But no reporter has ever been prosecuted for leaking.
GIGOT: Would you feel better if you were mentioned in that affidavit, it wouldn't make me feel better.
HUFFINGTON: (Inaudible) being prosecuted. You had Thomas Drake, and Jeffrey Sterling, both of them incidentally initiated in the Bush years. SO this is a -- this is a problem that precedes Holder. I mean let's call on Holder to design. There is no way Holder can continue to do his job as tainted as he has been. And as arrogant as he has been about what his department has been doing when it comes to the press. And I disagree with Gwen. This is not navel-gazing. This is about the First Amendment. It's about freedom of the press. The president himself has said that you cannot have journalists being afraid that they're going to be in the cross-hairs of the law while doing their job. He now has to take a real stand on this, and not try to play both sides of the -- of the -- of this issue.
GIGOT: Look, I agree that sometimes the press shouldn't publish things. We have to be responsible. But the guidelines were there in the Justice Department explicitly that Eric Holder ignored, to narrow the -- the focus...
GIGOT: But even on...
GIGOT: ..even on Rosen, you're supposed to inform the media in advance. They didn't do that. You're supposed to narrowly tailor it. They're explicitly right there on...
STEPHANOPOULOS: There's some question about whether Fox News, I think Karl Rove, actually got the subpoena or not. The Justice Department has a record of it being sent. Fox News said...
ROVE: Well let's be clear though. The -- Paul is referring to 9-13.400. These are the guidelines from the Department of Justice itself. It says, "The Department attorneys should take all reasonable steps to attempt to obtain the information through alternative sources, or means. They must first attempt negotiations with the media, aimed at accommodating the interests of the trial of grand jury with the interests of the media", they made no such attempt. "They must also precede any requests to subpoena the telephone toll records by having negotiations with the affected media", none of which they did.
These are the guidelines with the -- which the attorney general himself is responsible for...
ROVE: Well, look yes. I -- I do think so. He's got two problems. One problem is, when he signed the Rose affidavit, he did not abide by his own guidelines. Second, the defense they're offering for it, which was offered by Jay Carney that we're, conflating a subpoena with a prosecution means that what they said -- this was, remember of a criminal conspiracy when they sought the subpoena from the third judge they attempted to get it from, and finally got it from, was not where they didn't really intend ever to prosecute him.
So they were lying to the judge. And then the third one is -- the third problem he has is, on the 15th of May, he says before the House of Representatives under oath, in front of the Judiciary Committee, this is something I'd never contemplate. And on the 17th we learned that he did the Rosen -- the -- the Rosen...
PLOUFFE: I don't think he should go over this. I think if anything, he's guilty of over-zealously trying to uphold the law. And I think we all -- I think this is going to be a helpful process, which is how do we balance in -- in 2013, some of these guidelines go back to 1980 before the internet and email. How do we balance the need to protect national security and secrets, and our interests with the public's right to know, and investigative journalism? I do find out curious that the loudest Republican voice is now calling for the attorney general to go.
Were the same ones a year ago saying, we weren't investigating leaks strongly enough. They wanted a special prosecutor, because they said U.S. attorneys would not be tough enough. And so I think their objections lay less in the principle and substance of this, than almost a Pavlovian response. That if they have an opportunity to take political shots at the administration and the president, they'll...
HUFFINGTON: If there's ever an irony in having Karl who is the Michael Jordan of politicizing the executive branch. You know let's go back to the firing of lying attorney generals during the Bush rage, now being outraged...
HUFFINGTON: You know, I agree with you that Holder has to go. But there is a certain irony in the Republican doing...
ROVE: With all due...
ROVE: ...with all due respect -- with all due respect, even the Holder Justice Department, which did an investigation of the U.S. attorneys, issued a report saying no such evidence of political activity in removing those U.S. attorneys.
ROVE: But let me...
PLOUFFE: No they said partisan political consideration...
ROVE: No. No they didn't.
ROVE: No they didn't.
PLOUFFE: That's a fact.
ROVE: No they didn't. Here's the deal.
ROVE: They made a statement saying they found no evidence that there was anything wrong. There was politicization, which was the Justice -- the Holder Justice Department has never released the entire report, because it would show the depth of -- of -- of how outrageous these charges were, and how unsupported they were. They've never released the report.
PLOUFFE: What about inappropriate political interference from the Justice Department...
ROVE: No. No. No.
ROVE: That's not true.
IFILL: Can I say one thing, I'm really waiting for the moment when any senior cabinet official loses his job because a Sunday talk show has called for him to step down. Until he loses the confidence of the president, maybe David knows this more than I do, I can't imagine him losing...
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that is why I do want to move on right now...
ROVE: But can I make one point though about political...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah. Yeah.
ROVE: ...look, last year -- there -- there's a difference between investigating leaks by going after the leaker, and investigating the leaks by going after the journalist. And last year, you're right, a lot of Republicans said this administration was not going a good job in looking after leakers. So what do they do? They go after the reporter who gets the innocuous leak about U.S. policy in response to a North Korean missile launch. Where -- where were -- where was Holder going after the New York Times journalist who leaked...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Innocuous leak? They showed it was deep inside the North Korean regime, it would tip them off...
ROVE: You're right. You're right.
ROVE: Point -- my point is, it was not the world's greatest, which is what Holder said, this is the most outrageous leak in history. But again, the point is, there's a difference. Please do not conflate people who say the Obama administration ought to be going after the sources of the leak, with going after the journalists who report the leak. That...
IFILL: And don't conflate what happened with the Associated Press, which is a broad -- overly broad reach of hundreds of phone records, and what happened with the...
IFILL: ...State Department involving James Rosen.
ROVE: I gotta tell you, Gwen, I -- I think Paul made a great point. Do you really want the Justice Department to be subpoenaing the records of -- of journalists by claiming that they're members of a criminal conspiracy? That is -- that is beyond the pale. Unless -- unless there was something -- unless they're in the -- the payroll of the North Koreans, or the Russians, it strikes me that that is really outrageous.
GIGOT: The common theme here -- the common theme here between the IRS scandals and the Holder problems is the coercive power of the state. That is -- the president has been trying to redefine government in a benign way, expanded it and say, you know, what, it's really good for you. Well, sometimes it can be but often, it comes with a punch in the jaw. It comes with coercive power. That's what happened in both...
HUFFINGTON: But you know, even (inaudible) president, we keep forgetting the NSA surveillance that was not just about the press, but about the entire public. And that you have actually people going to Ashcroft's bedside in hospital to try to get it certified as being legal.
GIGOT: That was terrorists overseas, not domestic.
HUFFINGTON: Terrorists? How do you know they're terrorists? That's the whole point that we're really ignoring that this has been pervasive and happening in the Bush years and continuing in the Obama years. And this is really the major problem with Obama, that he has continued...
ROVE: And guess what, President Obama for doing it. God bless him.
HUFFINGTON: He has continued a lot of the same policies...
ROVE: God bless Obama for doing it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is a perfect place to take a break. We do have to take a quick break. And when we come back, Michele Bachmann says good-bye. Hillary's poll numbers cake a dip. And Obama and Christie are together again. What it all means for the midterms and 2016 in just 90 seconds.
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BACHMANN: I want to bring a voice, your voice, to the White House.
Barack Obama will be a one-term president.
In the straw poll yesterday, you saw a big message sent to Washington.
I don't know how much god has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We had an earthquake. We've had a hurricane.
I will not seek a fifth congressional term. Rest assured, this decision was not impacted in any way by the recent inquiries into activities of my former presidential campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: What an up and down from Michele Bachmann, let's talk about that on the roundtable again. Let's bring everybody back in. Arianna Huffington, Paul Gigot, Gwen Ifill, David Plouffe and Karl Rove.
And Arianna, let me start with you right here, I guess Michele Bachmann never lived up to the potential of winning that Iowa straw poll at the beginning of this last election cycle. And by the time she got out, we kind of called it a surprise, but it wasn't really.
HUFFINGTON: Well, I think what is a surprise was the reason she gave that the constitution limits the president to eight years, to just two terms and therefore she has also served eight years. And so she considered herself in a way, the shadow president. And so now, she's leaving.
And the Iowa straw poll is becoming more irrelevant than ever.
But what is interesting, is that basically, like Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann was a sort of colorful distraction. She had no legislative record. She didn't really do anything in the House that she cannot do outside the house. A lot of her career was based on grandstanding. So she can continue doing that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Does it say anything, Karl Rove, about the strength of the Tea Party orwhere the Tea Party goes from here?
ROVE: Actually, it will be an opening for the Tea Party. Michele Bachmann was the chairman of the congressional Tea Party caucus and in that position did nothing. Now the position has opened, someone next year will accept the chairmanship of it. And they may do something with it. And we'll see.
But it also guarantees that seat which had been thought to be very much up for grabs, she barely won last time around, ran well behind Mitt Romney, is now safely Republican. The Democrat who ran last time around, a self-funder named Graves, already announced he's -- after Bachmann pulled out, he pulled out as well. So, safe Republican seat and a Democrat recruitment.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Democrats are going to miss her.
You know, it's fun having her and the Sarah Palins of the world on the scene because they sort of define this modern Republican Party. Now there's others to replace her. You know, you've got Ted Cruz and others that will fill the bill. But I think it's important, because right now that's where so much of the energy in the Republican Party is.
And what we really need is the more common-sense, mainstream Republicans. And you're seeing some in the Senate around immigration, on efforts (inaudible) and around the deficit and the economy kind of rise up here. And because that has been a very insidious problem for the last two or three years, where the energy is with the Bachmanns of the world. And people are afraid in the Republican Party to step out, because they don't want to run afoul of that..
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about immigration...
GIGOT: You see Marco Rubio as a reasonable, mainstream Republican?
PLOUFFE: About immigration. Relative to the tea party.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Creating some fascinating policies. You had Harry Reid this week saying he thinks it's going to be easy to get 60 votes in the Senate. Yet you still have a very complicated situation in the House, even though the House leaders, John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, all want immigration reform. It's not clear the rank and file is going to go along.
GIGOT: No, I agree with that. It's still going to be an important fight.
I mean, it's got three -- it got three votes out of committee from the Republicans, including Orrin Hatch, which was very significant. I think it will be good for Republicans who favor immigration reform to get 10, 15, 20 Republican votes in the Senate. I don't think they're going to get there. But it would be good if they could. And then that would create more momentum to get it in the House.
But there's no question, there's tension within the Republican Party about -- on immigration. You know, people leaders -- Paul Ryan, for example, Marco Rubio, who want to -- who say, look, we need to do this for the economy. We need to do this to help entitlements, because younger immigrants create more growth and are able to finance Social Security going down the road. We need to do this to attract the most talented people of the world.
That's the -- that growth wing of the party, versus those who are more law and order oriented and want to, frankly, put more guns on the border.
IFILL: Well, here's a test of the Tea Party. Every couple years, we say the Tea Party's going to transform the party. It is so powerful. In fact, as Karl just pointed out, it doesn't really become much of anything on a national setting. Michele Bachmann leaving doesn't make that much difference. But locally, in government -- in governors' races and state races, even in congressional races, they can still have a lot of power.
And on things like immigration reform, they can drive the divisions which make -- that make progress impossible.
ROVE: Yeah, let's be careful about characterizing the Tea Party as being anti-immigrant. For example, in the House gang of eight, four Republicans and four Democrats, one of the four Republicans is Raul Labrador, a Tea Party -- interestingly, a Puerto Rican Republican from Idaho who was an immigration attorney.
But also there, is sort of the lead among the four Republicans is Judge John Carter of Texas, who opposed immigration reform in 2006, 2007, but as a judge has come to a reason, sensible approach to getting this thing done and believes it's time to get it done...
ROVE: ...controlling the board.
So, you know, look, the gang of eight, I appreciate your kind comments about Tea Partier Marco Rubio and his thoughtful leadership in the Senate on immigration. You can say this at the end of the segment so they can run that one.
IFILL: God bless Senator Marco Rubio.
ROVE: Yeah, god bless Senator Marco Rubio.
But this is going to be an interesting test. Paul is absolutely right. I mean, I think that -- I do -- I'm sort of a little more optimistic. I think there will be a significant number of senate Republicans voting for this bill. And I think also the House will arrive at a different place, but with a comprehensive bill. And then we'll spend the fall in serious negotiations in a conference committee in the House and Senate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And one of the biggest complications could be health care.
PLOUFFE: Could be. I would say this, I do give on this particular issue, Senator Rubio and the Republicans a lot of credit, because it's not easy right now to put yourself out there because you're going to get criticized from the right.
I think that I agree with Paul, I think it's going to be hard. I think there's a huge economic message that needs to be lifted up more about allowing us to compete. We shouldn't be educating these kids here and sending them home to compete against us. They need to stay here, build businesses here, be part of our great innovation economy.
But I think if it passes with the senate, it won't be 60, or 61. I think you will get high 60s or 70s. So you have the Senate passing something the president is ready to sign. I think that puts enormous pressure on the House.
And I think the only question is, what's the pathway John Boehner chooses. Is he going to pass something that he feels he's got to get 150 plus of his members, or is he willing to let a lot of his members walk to..
HUFFINGTON: There is a lot of scandal here that neither...
HUFFINGTON: ...neither Democrats, nor Republicans are talking about. And it's what the Obama administration is doing with deportations. And that's probably some (inaudible will say god bless Obama again, because more people have been deported under the Obama administration than over the whole two terms of George Bush. And we've had, for example, since 2010 200,000 parents of American citizens being deported for minor offenses. This is a real tragedy. And if this was being done under George Bush, Democrats would have been up in arms.
PLOUFFE: Well, we're enforcing the law, taking border security seriously. There have been adjustments. The deferred action decision around DREAM Act kids was important. Those kids should not be sent home.
HUFFINGTON: But they were sent home.
PLOUFFE: But this speaks, Arianna, as to why we need a solution. We need a comprehensive solution--
HUFFINGTON: But also we need some accountability, David, because right now, this goes right against what the -- what the president professes to believe in, that detention and deportation system, it is an absolute nightmare for families. It's a bit like a gulag.
IFILL: Here's the problem, here's the problem. You just identified the problem, which is can Washington chew gum and walk at the same time?
There is huge -- there are huge policy agenda items which the president would like to focus on. But scandals, disagreement within his own party, attacks from Republicans, whatever you want to call it, all means that these things cannot necessarily happen.
If Eric Cantor can boast as he did last week, that he held more than 100 oversight hearings in the House in May, just in May, that's what the House is focused on.
Are they focused on finding a middle ground on things like immigration reform?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cantor is trying to do that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He is trying. But David has identified, I think, the key strategic question for the House leadership.
Are they willing to let this go through the House, passed by a majority of Democrats, and sort of -- rather than go by what they call the Hastert rule that nothing cane come to the floor--
GIGOT: I don't think they have made that decision yet. And I think that they may have to divide it up more piecemeal to get rolling coalitions, that you can get parts of it through with majority votes maybe on some parts like for example, (inaudible) legalization.
The -- most Republicans don't vote for it. But you can package that together, send it over to the Senate. And then you can work on a deal.
There's one other threat to immigration which we haven't talked about much and that is the union movement. And they don't want a lot more workers. And they're putting enormous pressure inside the Democratic Party to restrict the number of visas, the number of guest workers. And that is a potential problem in the House for the growth wing of the GOP.
STEPHANOPOULOS: (inaudible) Karl.
PLOUFFE: But the unions and the Chamber of Commerce, the business community, I think, work very constructively on immigration reform. And that's why I think all the stars aligned. You have labor and business agreeing on most issues. I think you have most mainstream Republicans both in Washington and outside Washington believing this at the time.
So, again, I do think it comes down is John Boehner -- what's the pathway? Because he could decide to pass this with less than a majority or close to that, to heal his party more broadly. That's a decision that he's going to be faced, because I do think the Senate, it's not going to be easy.
But you're going to get a good vote in the Senate. The president's willing to sign it. All attention, the eyes of the country now are going to be on the House of Representatives.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Karl Rove?
ROVE: This decision about the House leadership has not been made and won't be made for a number of months because remember, Boehner's attitude is, is that the House has made a mistake over the last several decades in having only five people matter: the speaker, the majority leader, the majority whip, the chairman of the rules committee and the chairman of the subject matter committee.
And they decide these big, complex pieces of legislation. He thinks that's a mistake. So he wants the committee, in this case particularly the judiciary committee, to do its work. And he wants the caucus to do its work.
So I think he's going to make that decision. And it's going to be a test of leadership at the end of the day.
Let me make one other quick point. Back to Gwen. This issue of immigration will be settled with the administration doing less rather than more. The more the president intrudes into this process, the more political it becomes, the more difficult it becomes to pass.
That's why the Democrats, led by Schumer, even before the president went to Las Vegas to make his speech about it, went to him and said, basically, cool your jets. Leave it up to us.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's the president (inaudible) Karl.
I do want to move on. We only have a few minutes left. And I want to talk about the remarkable reunion this week, Chris Christie and President Obama went back to the Jersey shore. We showed them right there, having a good time.
Christie was a much better ballplayer in this context than the president. And Gwen, I guess when you look at that -- and he's a little bit smaller now after that surgery, yes. Christie's thinking, first things first. Let me get re-elected governor of New Jersey. Worry about president later.
IFILL: Well, which it's pretty smart if you want to get re-elected governor of New Jersey. He's running these really lovely gauzy ads in New Jersey, where it's like Christie, the governor. I mean, what's not to like about that?
STEPHANOPOULOS: He's up about 30 points or so.
IFILL: Yes, he's up. He's going to do fine in New Jersey. And then, he will -- and he knows that if he wants to run in 2016, he will cope with whoever his Republican critics are when the time comes.
Who is he going to run against? That's the question.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Will this be a problem for Chris Christie?
GIGOT: I don't think so. (Inaudible) any downside for this, this week. There's still some soreness about what happened before the election in 2012.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, about nine days before the election.
GIGOT: -- effusively. But in this, I don't think there's any doubts. And I think Christie's calculation, look, is if I get 58-60 percent, I win in New Jersey, I can point to Republicans and say, you want somebody to win in a Democratic state and rack up big numbers? I can do it. I just did it.
HUFFINGTON: Especially because Republicans want to win again. And as Bob Dole said, right now, the party should be closed for renovations (ph). And there is a lot of that feeling in the Republican Party, whether they articulate it or not. So I think Christie's in a very strong position to be the Republican nominee.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let see if Karl Rove agrees with that.
ROVE: I think this is all premature. We'll have several geological ages come and go before the 2016 election. And we'll all be pontificating about it. But --
STEPHANOPOULOS: And this embrace to President Obama won't matter?
ROVE: No, I don't think so. I think Paul's right, though. There is a little bit of residual from last fall. And it wasn't -- It didn't just happen once. But it happened several times. And then the interview with the FOX reporter where residents saying, of course, I'm going to be with the president when he comes to my state during a time of difficulty, excoriates the FOX reporter.
But really, this -- several geological ages will come and go. And these memories will dissipate and new memories will be created.
STEPHANOPOULOS: David, you get the last point on this.
PLOUFFE: -- a strong response to the governor and president being together speaks to the American people's hunger for their leaders actually of both parties to work together. I mean, they couldn't be crying out more loudly.
But I agree with Karl. We have got many lifetimes. I think the question, though, is if he does run, can he get through those conservative gates of Iowa and South Carolina, where his numbers in those states -- because, again, the Bachmann wing of the party is so strong in those states.
If Chris Christie runs and can survive until the big delegate states of California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, he'll probably have a pretty good shot. The question is can he get -- you know, if he gets 4 percent in Iowa and 3 percent in South Carolina --
IFILL: I am not going back to the straw poll. I don't care how much (inaudible). We're not.
ROVE: (Inaudible) Bachmann's resignation and retirement probably means the end of the straw poll.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And everybody's going to cheer that as we say goodbye.
That was really great, guys. Thank you very much.
David Plouffe is sticking around to answer your questions for our web extra. Check it out on abcnews.com/thisweek.
And when we come back after a secret trip to Syria for Senator John McCain and defiance for President Assad and Russia, more pressure on President Obama to take military action there. The debate on America's options with Christiane Amanpour and our expert panel is next.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Bashar Assad, promising to prevail in Syria's civil war, tough talk for Israel, too, after John McCain's secret visit with rebel forces inside Syria earlier this week. All that seemed to dim the prospects for peace talks, upped the pressure on President Obama to consider military intervention.
Here now to debate Americans' options, ABC's global affairs anchor, Christiane Amanpour; Bobby Ghosh, the editor of "Time International," and Aaron David Miller, top Middle East envoy under several presidents now with The Wilson Center.
Thank you all for being here.
And Christiane, a lot of developments this week. Clearly Assad feeling his oats this week. The Europeans lift the arms embargo. You have the Russians saying they're going to send the defense systems to Syria as well.
And the rebels are welcome to joins the peace talks. I know you've been talking to all sides here.
Where do you see this going next?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, ABC GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANCHOR: I've been speaking to fighters inside Qusayr. Now this is very important. It's a town strategically located, that if the Assad regime wins it could turn --
STEPHANOPOULOS: They have been moving (ph) it.
AMANPOUR: Indeed they have, with the help of Hezbollah, which has been a huge, new introduction into this war, Hezbollah fighting on behalf of the Assad regime, aided by Iran, rebels barely hanging on.
I've spoken to two top Russian officials, whose basic policy appears to be Putin's policy to basically shove it to the United States, stick it to the United States, sending these advanced missile systems, saying don't even think about intervening because we now have these huge surface-to-air missiles that are going to Syria, to the Assad regime, despite pleasure, practically on bended knee from secretary of state John Kerry, from the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Both went to Moscow to beg Putin, do not send these missiles.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Bob, you believe the United States should push back against that?
BOBBY GHOSH, EDITOR, "TIME INTERNATIONAL": I think so. I think -- I don't see that there is an option. This is a vital part of the world. American allies are sort of already being disrupted in the neighborhood by the events in Syria and by Russia and in Iranian intervention. Pushing back against Iran and pushing back against Hezbollah is important. I don't think the United States can sit this one out.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So what does that mean right now? What would you do?
GHOSH: Well, what is means is arming and training important rebels and working with the countries that are willing to get involved -- Turkey, Saudi, Jordan, Qatar -- and beginning to empower the rebels to take the fight to Assad.
If Assad is going to get large weapons systems from the Russians, yes, we can't give the rebels similar kinds of weapons systems. But that's not what it's going to take to win the war. Those weapons systems are not directed against the rebels. The rebels have shown that they can take territory with relatively little help. And that help has dried up. It needs to be brought back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're putting up a big go slow sign?
AARON DAVID MILLER, THE WILSON CENTER: Yes. I think it's going to get worse before it gets worse. I think to say there's no good options is an understatement. There are really bad options for this president, who, in my judgment, has willfully and wisely decided at no application of military power, unless he's prepared to define a strategy, literally to identify a comprehensive military strategy that would degrade and ultimately undermine and get rid of Assad.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That would include U.S. troops?
MILLER: Not necessarily, no. Arm and trade, no-fly zone and sophisticated weapons to carefully-vetted rebel groups, I mean, that's a military strategy that the administration could, could address.
The problem is -- and I know Afghanistan and Iraq are false analogies here. No one's talking about boots on the ground.
The apt point is this. The relationship between the application of military power and the end state. That is the single greatest constraint that this president is facing.
How does the application of American military power not only undermine and degrade the Assads but --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Get this through --
MILLER: -- how do you deal -- exactly -- without owning it? And that question --
AMANPOUR: Well, I think, again, these are all straw men and all red herrings because you can't keep fighting the last war. And what's happened here is that now, we're witnessing right now. And honestly, it's not too dramatic to call the alarm right now a regional sectarian war has broken out. Iraq --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Does not involve --
AMANPOUR: Lebanon, Sunni Shiite, and involved in Syria -- Iraq Sunni Shiite, American allies, Turkey and Jordan, buckling under the pressure of all these refugees. And this is spreading out. Israel, involved -- involved, using its own power.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But that gets to my question. Do we want to be in the middle?
AMANPOUR: It's not about being in the middle, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- a regional civil war?
AMANPOUR: It's not really about being in the middle. There are several choices. And from what my reporting has told me, is that there are many people in the United States, the Obama administration, national security and defense organizations, who want to see arm and train.
The president doesn't want to do it. And you've articulated why. The president has vetoed, as you know already, former CIA director Petraeus, Former Defense secretary Leon Panetta, former secretary --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Last year, yes.
AMANPOUR: Yes, on precisely this thing. And people still want to do it, arm and train. It's the only thing that you can do.
GHOSH: And let's not forget that United States doesn't have skin in the game. We already do. All of our allies are involved. Before any important weapon systems go up, Israel will have a say. Israel has already flown flights into Syria to take out systems.
And let's not imagine that that does not have ramifications for us. Even if Israel acts alone, the message that is being sent to the Middle East and to the wider world, that it is -- that the United States has -- already has kinetic involvement through Israel in Syria.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And let me ask you this. If the Russians are so determined to stick by Assad, is there any way that this comprehensive strategy that you laid out earlier can work?
MILLER: Look, the president of the United States declared that it was in the vital national interest of this country to undermine and get rid of the Assads and to assume responsibility for the quote-unquote "new Syria." Stabilization force, the billions of dollars that are going to be required to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, yes, the United States could do that.
But governing, George, as you know, is about choosing. This is not about the Middle East. It's about the middle class. And this president, second term, one of only 17 in American history, believes his legacy is transformational at home. It's a domestic legacy. His role is not to get America into additional profitless wars abroad. It's to get America out of them. And that priority is extremely important.
STEPHANOPOULOS: (Inaudible), Christiane, the question would be, how can you put a limit on the strategy if it is necessary, in your view, to take more action?
AMANPOUR: Yes, you know, it's not my view or not. It really is what's unfolding on the ground. And I think Bobby has articulated and so has Aaron, two different views here. I think you can sit it out and watch this thing come back to bite you -- because it will. It will.
These are American allies around Syria, who are being absolutely undermined and compromised and could very well end up in full-scale war. And this is what Assad wanted.
I remember at the very beginning, you know, Assad loyalists who had defected said this is what he wants to do. He wants to make it bad in Syria -- make it bad -- I'm sorry -- in Lebanon and Iraq and sort of say, oh, well, I'm the only one who can be trusted to have some kind of stabilizing force.
And I think that, look. A year ago, President Clinton, former President Clinton, a year ago, when there were 10,000 dead in Syria, said that the longer we leave this, the worse it will be and the more bad actors will come in.
Now, 80,000 people dead in one year. That's 70,000 people who've been killed. There is a huge humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Syria beyond our eyes, because we can see it. And this is what is happening right now. And the bad actors are in there, both on the rebels' side and Assad's side, Hezbollah and Iran.
STEPHANOPOULOS: (Inaudible), you get the last word.
GHOSH: Well, this is not Iraq. And I think Aaron's right. The battle should not be made exclusively with Iraq and Afghanistan. Another battle -- which Christiane understands more than most people, is the Balkans. This is -- we should look more closely at the Balkans and our experience there to understand what needs to be done in Syria.
There, you had the Russians taking one side. You had enormous -- we had genocide taking place within the country. Eventually, it took American-NATO military involvement to get this right. Eventually it will take --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- successful. Fascinating discussion. Thank you all very much.
Coming up, Congressman John Dingell has served with every president since Eisenhower. He will make history soon. Find out why in our "Sunday Spotlight."
STEPHANOPOULOS: It is kind of irresistible. The parade of intense awkward and endearing tweens all vying for top prize of the Scripps-Howard Spelling Bee. Persistence paid off this year for Arvind Mahankali (ph) from Bayside Hills, New York. (Inaudible) from Germany knocked him out of past tournaments. But this time, he nailed knaidel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARVIND MAHANKALI (PH), SPELLING BEE CHAMPION: K-N-A-I-D-E-L, knaidel.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are correct.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Arvind (ph), what is the significance of this kind of accomplishment for you this year?
MAHANKALI (PH): It means that I'm retiring on a good note.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you going to do now that you're retired? Just go play golf or what?
MAHANKALI (PH): Oh, I shall spend this summer, maybe the entire day, studying like physics.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That promise to study physics may be a first for ESPN. Congrats to Arvind for that and his victory.
And when we come back, the member of Congress about to make history in our "Sunday Spotlight."
STEPHANOPOULOS: And today's "Sunday Spotlight," the man you see in that vintage photo from the congressional page class of 1939, right there, then elected to Congress in 1955, taking the seat held by his father. He has been there ever since. And soon, John Dingell will make history, becoming the longest-serving member ever on Capitol Hill, 57 years, 5 months and 26 days.
Congressman Dingell, congratulations.
REP. JOHN DINGELL (D), MICH: Thank you, George. It's great to see you again and be back with you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's great to be with you. And, boy, your brushes with history began so early. When you were a page, back in 1941, you were right there when Franklin Roosevelt gave that "day of infamy" speech.
DINGELL: I was. I was in the gallery, taking care of a very famous newsman who was to wire record Roosevelt. I let him record not just Roosevelt's speech, but the speech that followed, which he was not supposed to do. And that's a little bit of the history that has been preserved for the country about how people actually felt and how they behaved on the dais in the Congress.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And when you got to Congress, you've now cast I think more than 25,000 votes.
When you look at all of them, if you can point out the vote that was most important to you?
DINGELL: I made a lot of important votes. But I have got to tell you, the one of which I'm almost -- of which I'm most proud and which I think was the most important, was the vote I cast on the '64 Civil Rights Bill, that allowed citizens to vote. You'll remember the country was being torn apart by the denial to our people the right to vote.
And, happily, that began a process that cured it, so that a black American citizen is now sitting in the White House.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That must have been an amazing moment for you to see him sworn after being to vote for that civil rights bill.
DINGELL: It was. And it almost cost me the job.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How so?
DINGELL: Well, it had a very nasty election over it. And people said -- "The Wall Street Journal" gave me a 1 in 15 chance of winning. And I just went around and told folks, I said, now, please explain to me why it is that a white man should be able to vote and a black man should not?
And the response of my people was fair and decent. And they agreed with me, although at the start of the debate, they really didn't.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congress is a dramatically different institution since when you first came in 1955. What's the biggest change?
DINGELL: Lack of collegiality, refusal to compromise, an absolute reluctance to work together and I think the total loss of the understanding of the traditions.
When my dad went there, if a fellow -- there were two things you could say about a member. One was, he's sincere. That meant he was a good guy. You could trust him. Didn't make any difference whether you agreed with him or not. He was sincere.
But if they said, he's insincere, that put you behind and beyond the Pale.
Today, members are so busy getting re-elected, spend so little time there, there's so much pressure on them from outside to be partisan and to fight, not to do the things that we're supposed to, such as compromising or working together. And compromise has gotten, George, to be a dirty word. And this is a great shame. The Founding Fathers intended something quite different.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And how do you keep your sense of mission after all this time?
DINGELL: Well, you got to love the job. And you got to love the country. And you've got to have goals and purposes and hopes. You got to have a closeness with the people. And you've got to understand what their hopes and dreams and desires are.
And I've got a pretty wonderful bunch of people in the 12th District of Michigan. They're wonderful, hard-working, decent people. And you get inspired just talking to those people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you served them well for more than half a century. Congressman, congratulations.
DINGELL: God bless you. Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And now, we honor our fellow Americans who serve and sacrifice.
This week, the Pentagon released the names of two soldiers 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. And I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA."