'This Week' Transcript: Speaker John Boehner

House Speaker John Boehner is interviewed on 'This Week.'

ByABC News
November 6, 2011, 1:12 PM


AMANPOUR (voice-over): This week, it's been one year since he was swept to power by a Tea Party tsunami, 12 months of triumph and frustrations.

BOEHNER: I have tried all year with every fiber of being to try to get members on both sides of the aisle, try to get the president to get serious.

AMANPOUR: Now, with public anger at Congress at an all-time high, John Boehner faces his toughest challenge yet.

BOEHNER: This is hard.

AMANPOUR: Today, a "This Week" exclusive, the speaker of the House, on President Obama, the debt super-committee, and the Republican 2012 contenders.


CAIN: I have never sexually harassed anyone.

AMANPOUR: ... a bizarre twist on the campaign trail.

(UNKNOWN): Excuse me. Excuse me.

AMANPOUR: Will the skeletons in Cain's closet doom his campaign? And does this drama threaten to reshape the Republican field? Our roundtable tackles all of the week's politics, as well as the gloomy economic forecasts, and how the debt crisis in Europe affects your 401(k) here at home.

Plus, Condoleezza Rice on Barack Obama. The former secretary of state on the current commander-in-chief and the Republicans vying to replace him.

ANNOUNCER: Live from the Newseum in Washington, "This Week" with Christiane Amanpour starts right now.


AMANPOUR: Good morning, and welcome to the program. We have lots to get to this morning, but first, some news since your morning papers.

Clash of the titans in Texas last night, as Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich met for the first of a series of one-on-one Lincoln-Douglas-style debates. It was a largely civil affair, the fireworks coming afterwards, when reporters peppered Cain with questions about those sexual harassment allegations that's rocked his campaign.


(UNKNOWN): Mr. Cain, the attorney for one of the women who filed sexual harassment claims against you...

CAIN: Don't even go there.


(UNKNOWN): Can I ask my question?

CAIN: No, end of story. Back on message. Read all of the other accounts. Read all of the other accounts, where everything has been answered, end of story.


AMANPOUR: Like it or not, the pizza mogul has been tabloid fodder for days, and for all the wrong reasons. In our special Sunday feature now, our man, Jon Karl, takes us through this long, strange week in politics.


KARL (voice-over): And there's Herman Cain, still looking like he's having the time of his life, still on top of the polls, and this at the end of a week we would have thought would have sunk any presidential candidate. Just think back to how it all started...

(UNKNOWN): (OFF-MIKE) you haven't been accused of sexual harassment?

KARL: The Politico story, based entirely on anonymous stories, was explosive. Two unnamed women, it said, accused Cain of sexual harassment when he was CEO of the National Restaurant Association. Cain called the story a "witch hunt."

CAIN: I have never sexually harassed anyone, and those accusations are totally false.

KARL: And the cash settlement?

CAIN: I am unaware of any sort of settlement. I hope it wasn't for much, because I didn't do anything.

KARL: A few hours after that, his memory was again improving.

CAIN: There was a financial settlement, and it was somewhere in the vicinity of three to six months' severance pay.

KARL: Pressed on why he changed his story, Cain parsed words.

CAIN: The word "settlement" versus the word "agreement," you know, I'm not sure what they called it.

KARL: Where have we heard talk like that?

CLINTON: It depends upon what the meaning of the word "is" is.

KARL: Even Cain's friends were troubled.

(UNKNOWN): How does Herman Cain end up parsing words in such a Clintonian legalistic way?

CAIN: Well, it wasn't intended to be Clintonian.

KARL: Next, the Cain campaign lashed out at Rick Perry, blaming him without evidence for spreading the story in the first place.

(UNKNOWN): Rick Perry needs to apologize to Herman Cain and, quite frankly, to America.

KARL: Not happening.

PERRY: No apology needed. We found out about this at the same time that I suppose the rest of America found out about it.

KARL: And throughout it all, Cain stayed in Washington, the jovial frontrunner getting more and more irritated by the day.

CAIN: Excuse me. Excuse me.

KARL: The lawyer for one of Cain's accusers says that she is standing behind her claims.

(UNKNOWN): Mr. Cain knows the specific incidents that were alleged.

KARL: A disastrous week, you think? Well, why, then, is he still statistically tied with Mitt Romney leading the pack?

There were other things happening this week, that Rick Perry speech in New Hampshire.

PERRY: Live free or die, victory or death. Bring it.

KARL: So animated, gestures so exaggerated, it became a YouTube sensation.

PERRY: I love Herman. Is he the best?

KARL: Finally, trending. Up, anonymous. Accusers and sources dominated the week's news, and the world still doesn't know their names.

Mark Block, down. Last week's Internet sensation has a rough week. He's even agreed to stop smoking, if Cain wins.

Mitt Romney, sideways. What else? Another top contender seems to go down, but Romney still doesn't go up.

Down, the NRA. No, not that NRA. The National Restaurant Association. Maybe too much hospitality?

CAIN: Excuse me.

KARL: Excuse me. With "This Week in Politics," I'm Jonathan Karl.


AMANPOUR: Thanks again to Jon Karl.

And President Obama was overseas this week at the G-20 summit. He comes home to a tidal wave of voter angst. Our new ABC News-Washington Post poll out today puts the president's job approval at just 44 percent. What's more, just 13 percent of Americans say they're better off than they were when he took office, and 74 percent say the country is on the wrong track.

The president is not the only one feeling the heat: 80 percent of Americans are frustrated with the federal government these days. Of that number, 31 percent are downright angry.

It's one reason perhaps that House Republicans are pushing back against accusations that they're do-nothing obstructionists. When I sat down with Speaker John Boehner, he brandished this flyer, showing the jobs legislation that he's passed. Of course, most of it was dead on arrival in the Senate. I asked the speaker how compromise has become such a dirty word on Capitol Hill.


AMANPOUR: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for joining us.

BOEHNER: Good to be here.

AMANPOUR: Let's talk about jobs, obviously. You talk about trying to find common ground, but at the moment, there doesn't seem to be much. Even the infrastructure can't get through Congress. Where can you see common ground?

BOEHNER: Well, we've already seen some common ground. We passed the free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. It's part of our plan, part of the president's plan. As a matter of fact, it's all part of our plan for American job-creators.

And we've passed 22 bills, all with bipartisan support, that would help reduce barriers to -- to job growth. They all remain in the United States Senate. You're going to see the House move, I think, before the end of the year on an infrastructure bill.

AMANPOUR: Now, you obviously disagree with the idea of paying for this with extra taxes. Some 75 percent of Americans agree with an increase in tax on millionaires as a way to pay for these jobs provisions. Do you not feel that by opposing it you're basically out of step with the American people on this issue?

BOEHNER: Well, over half of the people who would be taxed under this plan are, in fact, small-business people. And as a result, you're going to basically increase taxes on the very people that we're hoping will reinvest in our economy and create jobs. That's the real crux of the problem.

And, secondly, I would point out this: We have a spending problem. We've done all this stimulus spending the last couple of years, and clearly it has not worked.

AMANPOUR: You said that there is more room for revenues. What do you mean by that?

BOEHNER: I believe that if we restructure our tax code where the -- on the corporate side and the personal side, the target would be a top rate of 25 percent, it would make our economy more competitive with the rest of the world, it would put Americans back to work, we'd have broader base on the tax rules, and out of that, there would be real economic growth and more revenues for the federal government.

AMANPOUR: Do you agree at all that there should be any kind of tax increases?

BOEHNER: I believe that we can create revenue out of fixing our tax code and bring that revenue to the table, as long as our colleagues on the other side of the aisle are serious about cutting spending. And I have tried all year, with every fiber of my being, to try to get members on both sides of the aisle, try to get the president to get serious about dealing with our debt problem. Nobody more upset that we couldn't come to an agreement, the president and I, than I was.

AMANPOUR: A year now into the new Congress. What is your biggest regret then?

BOEHNER: I really thought the president and I could come to an agreement. And I thought that, for the good of the country, he and I could have solved this problem, we could have passed a significant bill to reduce our long-term obligations.

Listen, we've made promises to ourselves that our kids and grandkids cannot afford. And we have to deal with it. So we -- we -- we have the deficit committee, the so-called super-committee. They're hard at work. And I've got to tell you, these members, all 12 of them, Democrats and Republicans from both the House and the Senate, they have worked diligently, they have put in incredible numbers of hours. They're not there yet. But I'm going to do everything I can to continue to encourage them and to help them reach a successful outcome.

AMANPOUR: Well, I was going to ask you, because there was so much hope put into their efforts, and yet they do seem to be stuck at an impasse. We know that they're meant to be trying to come up with $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts.

BOEHNER: I wouldn't -- I wouldn't describe it as a impasse.

AMANPOUR: You think it'll work?

BOEHNER: This is hard.


BOEHNER: If it was easy, the president and I could have solved it. If it was easy, Congresses over the last two decades would have solved it. It's hard.

AMANPOUR: Do you think it'll work?

BOEHNER: But -- but it has to work. And I am committed to ensuring that it works.

AMANPOUR: Because as we all know, if it doesn't, there are automatic, rather draconian cuts. Would you be able to live with those, including half of those cuts might come from the Defense Department?

BOEHNER: I think it is important for our government to solve our deficit and our debt problem. And -- and we need to take a big step in the right direction. So I'm going to do everything I can to ensure that the super-committee is successful.

AMANPOUR: You talked about the $800 billion or so that you were trying to make an agreement with President Obama, in terms of revenues. It didn't work. You've said that that's one of your biggest regrets. Is that -- could that happen again? Could you get back to that point?

BOEHNER: Well, I think it's hard to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again.

AMANPOUR: How much revenue, when we were talking about room for revenue, how much revenue do you think you could -- you could get?

BOEHNER: Well, that's the $64 million question. Nobody knows.

AMANPOUR: You talk about fairness. And, of course, obviously, a lot of the conversation in this country over the last year or so has been about spending cuts, getting the deficit under control. But it's sort of shifting, as you know now, to the whole big disparity in income, the income gap, the income inequality that people are talking about.

Latest reports say that something like 1 in 15 Americans live in extreme poverty, which is defined as something like $11,000 per year for a family of four. Are you concerned that these budget cuts are going to hurt the people who can least afford it?

BOEHNER: No. No one here in this Congress, Democrat or Republican, wants to do anything about putting holes in the safety net for Americans. There are Americans who are poor. And I think it's the responsibility of the rest of us to ensure that they have food in their stomachs and they have a roof over their head.

You know, John Kennedy said some 50 years ago, a rising tide lifts all boats. We have to get our economy moving again. And until we get our economy moving again, we start producing more jobs, we're going to have all kinds of uncertainty, concern, and, frankly, fear about the future.

AMANPOUR: You talk about a rising tide lifting all boats, and, of course, that is the American way. That's what all of us look to America for. And yet, not just income inequality has expanded, but also the idea of social mobility is kind of slowing down. It's even slower than in some other parts of the world. And clearly, the Republicans are being portrayed as the party that doesn't really care and are really, quote, unquote, "the servants of the rich." Does that need to change?

BOEHNER: Well, I think that's -- I think that's very unfair. Listen, I come from a family of 12. My dad owned a bar. I've got brothers and sisters on every rung of the economic ladder. What our job here in Congress is to do and the reason I came here 21 years ago was to make sure that the American dream that was available to us is available for our kids and our grandkids.

That -- most people don't believe that's the case today. And, frankly, I've got concerns that it may not be the case. We can't have government debt that's snuffing out the future for our kids and grandkids. We can't have a government that's taking 30, 40 cents out of every dollar from our kids and grandkids to pay for government. That's the -- you can't have both.

And I do believe that my -- my job and my vision is to make sure the American dream is alive and well for everyone in America.

AMANPOUR: You look at Occupy Wall Street. I think you've said that you understand their frustrations. People such as, let's say, Eric Cantor, called them a mob not so long ago. Do you agree with that? Are they a mob?

BOEHNER: Listen, I understand people's frustrations. I understand their concerns. And I, frankly, understand that we have differences in America. We are not going to engage in class warfare. The president's out there doing it every day. I, frankly, think it's unfortunate.

AMANPOUR: You say...

BOEHNER: Because -- because our job is to help all Americans, not -- not to pit one set of Americans against another.

AMANPOUR: And you think that's what's happening?

BOEHNER: The president's clearly trying to do it. And it's wrong.

AMANPOUR: You say class warfare. I asked Bill Gates last week about this whole notion, and he said, look, class warfare is where you've got people in the streets manning the barricades, you know, fighting each other. I mean, that's not what's happening. It's not so much redistribution of income that the president is talking about, but much more a shared and much fairer sense of sacrifice. And there doesn't seem to be the sense amongst people here that the sacrifice is being shared, because they point to taxes and tax cuts and who it benefits and who it doesn't.

BOEHNER: Come on. The top 1 percent pay 38 percent of the income taxes in America. You know, how much more do you want them to pay? Well, I'll tell you what: Let's take all the money that the rich have, all of it. It won't even put a dent in our current budget deficit, much less our debt.

AMANPOUR: Congress, obviously, is not very popular with the people. So no matter what you say about the president, Congress's approval ratings are way lower. How do you live with that, 9 percent approval?

BOEHNER: Well, listen, Congress has never been popular.

AMANPOUR: No, but this is historic levels.

BOEHNER: The Congress has never been popular with the -- with the American people.

AMANPOUR: But this is the worst.

BOEHNER: They look at the battles that go on here at Capitol Hill, and they don't like to see it. And I understand that. It would surprise people that 90 percent of the time, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle get along. But, you know, that's not news for those of you in the news business. It's only when...

AMANPOUR: But we see -- but we still see paralysis...

BOEHNER: ... only -- only when -- it's only when we're -- we're disagreeing.

AMANPOUR: ... in terms of legislation.

BOEHNER: Listen, the founders gave us a committee of 535 people. Frankly, it was designed not to work. My job is to make it work. And it is working. Is it slow? Yes. Is it frustrating? Yes. But what I take a comfort in every day is that I know members on both sides of the aisle are trying to do the right thing for the American people every single day.

AMANPOUR: Can I quickly turn to 2012, which is in everybody's mind? Is Mitt Romney the man who would put up the stiffest competition to President Obama's re-election?

BOEHNER: There are a lot of good candidates that are out there running. My focus is on the Congress of the United States and trying to get our economy going again and producing jobs. Here, this is my book, right here.

AMANPOUR: I've seen that three times.

BOEHNER: My plan for American job-creators. This -- that's my focus. I'm sure Republican voters from around the country will choose a good candidate, and whoever -- whatever candidate they choose I'm going to support.

AMANPOUR: And Herman Cain, who has zoomed to the top with his 9-9-9, and now is having some trouble with allegations against him. Do you think that he's handling this well? How would you advise him to handle the latest allegations against him?

BOEHNER: I think he and his opponents will have a nice -- a nice debate about this.

AMANPOUR: In other words, you're not going anywhere?

BOEHNER: I'm not going there. My focus is right here.

AMANPOUR: If your focus is right here, how would you describe today your relationship with President Obama? Because essentially that's what's going to make stuff happen.

BOEHNER: Well, you know, the president and I have a pretty good relationship. You know, it's been little frosty here the last -- the last few weeks. But we've got a pretty good relationship.


BOEHNER: Yes. And I've told the president, you know, I'm -- I'm the most straight-up, transparent person in this town, that I would never mislead him. My word is my bond. Democrats and Republicans here in Washington understand that.

And so we've got -- we've got a pretty good relationship. Doesn't mean that we always agree. But the American people expect -- even though we have very different ideas -- the American people want us to look for common ground and then act on it.

So far, we've been able to do that. We've taken some steps in the right direction here over the last couple of months. We've got a lot more steps to take together.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much, indeed.

BOEHNER: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And coming up, Barack Obama, comeback kid? The roundtable on the president's quest to defy history's precedent. And the super-committee's long, hard slog now nearing its climax.


AMANPOUR: At long last, the new jobs numbers this week showed a glimmer of hope, 80,000 new jobs added, unemployment down a tick to 9 percent. It's something, but it isn't enough, or is it enough to convince voters that the tide is turning? Because right now, they remain deeply pessimistic.

Our new ABC News-Washington Post poll shows that 63 percent of Americans believe the economy hasn't even begun to recover yet, and that's a steep drop from a year ago.

So let's bring in our roundtable, George Will, the Huffington Post's Arianna Huffington, former George W. Bush strategist Matthew Dowd, and historian and Newsweek columnist Niall Ferguson, author of the new book "Civilization: The West and the Rest." Of course, I always want to say "Nile," but I know it's "Neil."

FERGUSON: Thank you. Otherwise I'd have to mispronounce your name.

AMANPOUR: Exactly. Which happens a lot.

Let me turn to you, George, and ask you about the unemployment numbers. Is that something of a trend or is that just scratching the surface? What difference is that going to make?

WILL: Not much. First of all, 80,000 isn't nearly enough to accommodate even the natural growth month by month of -- of the workforce. There are two bits of good news in there. The 80,000 is a net number. The private sector created 104,000 jobs; the public sector, happily, shrank by 24,000 jobs. Both of that's good.

Here's the bad news: 46 percent of the unemployed have been unemployed for six months or more; 4 million Americans have been unemployed for a year. We know what happens. It's got human capital depreciation. Skills decay. The very spirit that causes people to engage in economic life decays. The result is, if you've been unemployed for six months or more, your lifetime earnings are apt to decline by 20 percent under what they would have been by natural trajectory.

AMANPOUR: And, Niall, it doesn't look, according to this poll, that people have much faith in that it's going to get any better. Where do you see the trajectory?

FERGUSON: Well, I think here people actually turn out to be better economists than economists, because the consensus view, if you go back to '08-'09, was that if you hit the economy with a big monetary stimulus, zero interest rates, quantitative easing, and then a big stimulus on the fiscal side, with a 10 percent of GDP deficit, there would be a V-shaped recovery and the U.S. would bounce back like it did after most recessions post-1945, but people recognize that this isn't an ordinary recession.

And the real problem is the drag on consumer spending of the great debt that households accumulated over the last 10 or 15 years. And I think that debt makes it easy to see that there won't be a great bounce at any point soon. It's a very slow process, paying down that debt, and it restrains Americans from going out -- going out to the shopping malls. And that, after all, was the main driver of growth in the glory years before the crash. It was consumption.

AMANPOUR: There's a bit of a, Arianna, a national sort of funk, isn't there, to Niall's point?

HUFFINGTON: Well, I think what's happening is that there is a sense of a bit of Groundhog Day feeling, that every Friday, the first Friday of each month, we get these job numbers, and, really, nothing is fundamentally changing.

And the most depressing thing is, really, what was in Ron Suskind's book, Paul Volcker quoting Larry Summers, saying that politicians, when it comes to reform, just want to be caught trying. And you saw that in your interview with John Boehner. He's laminated proof of how he's trying to create jobs. You see the president in front of crumbling bridges that have been crumbling ever since he's been in the White House, but suddenly we're getting closer to 2012, so he wants to be seen to be trying to create infrastructure jobs.

But it's all a show. And the American people sense it, that there's no real effort or will to create jobs, because there are many ideas out there about how it could be done, but it's not happening.

AMANPOUR: Let me just show you, Matt -- I wanted you to weigh in on this -- show you some numbers about who the American people sort of blame and hold responsible for this. Basically, in October, the president had a 15-point advantage over congressional Republicans on the question of who the public trusts to handle jobs. And a month later, our new ABC News-Washington Post poll has them tied at 40 percent, which is a big drop for the president. In terms of pure politics, what does this mean?

DOWD: Well, that's why the president's in trouble on this. Even if there is a glimmer of hope in some statistical basis for job creation, the American public gets to make the decision about whether or not we're in a recovery. And until the American public's income actually changes, which it has not changed in 10 years, has not kept pace and has not kept pace with expenses, they do not believe the country's on the right track. And as that number goes further month to month, the president's number's going to drop, unless the economy really changes and the public really feels it.

The problem is, there's been no politician on the left or the right, a Republican or Democrat, that has laid out a vision that the country believes they can see what the economy will look like in 5 years or 10 years. The country does not believe there's been a politician that's said, "Here's where we're going, and here's how we're going to get there." Until they do that, the country's in this great funk and great dissatisfaction.

AMANPOUR: So one of those end points is, obviously, what the super-committee's going to come up -- you heard me ask Speaker Boehner about that. Weigh in, if you like, about how -- and do you believe they're going to come up with an agreement by the deadline, just before Thanksgiving, George?

WILL: The problem is, by next Sunday, they have to have a plan, if they're going to get it scored by the Congressional Budget Office before the 23rd.

The president needs this committee to fail, because he's already decided to run against what he calls the "Republican Congress." While he was lecturing in constitutional law, he missed that part of the Article I that says there's a Senate, also, and the Democrats control that, and as Boehner said, they're holding up a lot of legislation.

If he's going to run against a do-nothing Congress, it has to do nothing. Therefore, they can go for a big deal, which is unlikely. They can say, "We got $1.2 trillion, which is what we're required to get," which is $120 billion over 10 years, which is trivial. Or they can let the so-called sequester happen, counting on the fact that Congress is going to say, "Come to think about it, we don't want to do that."

AMANPOUR: Those are the automatic cuts.

WILL: The automatic cuts have to come from defense, but defense defined broadly to include the great blob of the Department of Homeland Security.

FERGUSON: This seems like a potentially huge miscalculation by the president, because as your poll shows, the blame is beginning to shift towards him for the underperformance in the employment market. And I think this will be another negative from the point of view of U.S. financial markets if they don't come up with a deal and if there's even discussion of going down the sequester route. And I think the president gets hit hardest. If the economy's still in the tank 12 months from now, almost every social science model that exists...


HUFFINGTON: ... not just this president. I mean, just look around at the world. Whoever is in power is getting hit. I mean, look at what's happening in Greece, with Papandreou resigning. Look at what's happening in Spain, where the Socialist candidate for prime minister is overwhelmingly going to lose to the conservative (inaudible) candidate for prime minister. It doesn't matter where you're coming from. If you're in charge, you're being blamed for what's happening.

AMANPOUR: How is that economic crisis -- I mean, the mess we've seen in Europe over the past week -- going to affect Americans here at home?

FERGUSON: Pretty directly, actually, because the situation in Europe is now the double dip. I mean, that's been confirmed by the new head of the European Central Bank, who's talking about another recession. And the U.S. needs the eurozone and, indeed, the European Union generally to be growing well, because if American consumers aren't out there shopping, exports are one of the few areas that the U.S. can hope to get growth out of. And that is something that the administration has been hoping for. So a euro recession is really bad news for the U.S.

DOWD: And I also think it has a tremendous affect on the American psyche, because I think where Americans are today is they feel like they're the victims of a lot of uncontrollable global forces in the world. And they don't feel anybody is out there sort of in front, saying to say, "Here's how we're going to do this. Here's -- I'm in charge."

And even President Obama in his sort of speak, I think, reinforces the ideas, "I can't really do anything about this. Republicans are at fault, or this is going on internationally. I can't do this," as opposed to saying, listen, I got a plan, this is what we're going to do, and this is how we're going to go forward. So as the country sees all of this going around the world, it's just another thing of, like, who's in charge?

WILL: You had the failure this week of MF Global, the financial institution, had good news. That is, it failed without implicating the American taxpayers. The bad news is, it failed because it made a bet on European sovereign debt, so that -- if you want to know if we're connected, look at the rubble of MF Global.

HUFFINGTON: But also it failed because it did not make big enough bets. That's the real danger here, that too-big-to-fail is still there, and that's one of the dangers that's still looming ahead.

AMANPOUR: All right. And we'll be back in a moment, because coming up, foot-in-mouth disease strikes the Republican presidential field, Herman Cain, Rick Perry. Words get in the way in an uncertain field that has yet to gel. Our roundtable will continue after a break.


AMANPOUR: Herman Cain's sunny campaign took a stormy turn this week. The candidate sent mixed messages for days, as he confronted sexual harassment allegations from his past. And so will the scandal bring his soaring campaign back down to Earth? Let us bring back the roundtable.

George, first to you. Can Herman Cain survive it and fix it?

WILL: He can fix it, and he still won't survive. That is, I don't think his is a viable presidential campaign. He's just not...


AMANPOUR: Regardless of this?

WILL: He's not conducting it as a presidential campaign. He's not going where the early voters are going to vote, things like -- little indices like that. He's not raising money. This looks like something other than what it purports to be.


DOWD: Well, but I think what's interesting about that is, I agree he's not conducting this like a normal campaign, but the interesting thing is, is he either leads the polls or is tied in the polls not doing all the traditional things in this campaign.

I think there are a bunch of voters out there that want a nontraditional candidate, which is why Herman Cain's risen in the polls. Even though he doesn't have experience, he's made a bunch of mistakes. In these latest allegations, if he gets through them -- and you never know what more -- more shoes are going to drop -- he mishandled this terribly, mishandled this whole thing terribly.

But to me, this whole thing with Herman Cain is a signal about how tribal our politics has become, because immediately when this allegations comes out, the right sort of castigates Politico and -- who broke the story -- and castigates the media and castigates them, saying, OK, this is horrible. And then the left says, he's disqualified, he can't run, and nobody can actually have a measured conversation about the people involved and what's the issue and all that, because we line up in tribes and we throw rocks at each other without any conversation.

HUFFINGTON: But I think this is more a problem with our media culture. I mean, Herman Cain is the latest Balloon Boy. You know, everybody's obsessed with it. It's wall-to-wall cable coverage. But even the three networks, it's like 50 stories on Herman Cain in the first three days. And if you really ask commentators off the air whether they really think that it's probable that Herman Cain even before these allegations would be president and sing "Imagine There's No Pizza" in the White House, they would tell you no. So why are we obsessing about it?

FERGUSON: But, Arianna, I think -- we're obsessing because he could become the candidate. I don't think he has a chance at becoming president. But the interesting thing here is that the Republican field is in such a mess that anything's possible. And it's perfectly plausible, given the mood in the -- in the party amongst the activists, that they won't anoint Mitt Romney and that they will actually go for Cain.

AMANPOUR: Well, before we get to Mitt Romney, I want to ask you about not just the allegations, but the substantive issues. Let's just play what Herman Cain said on PBS just a few days ago about China.


CAIN: Yes, they're a military threat. They've indicated that they're trying to develop nuclear capability and they want to develop more aircraft carriers, like we have. So, yes, we have to consider them a military threat.


AMANPOUR: Well, you know, we do know that China's has a nuclear capability since the '60s. So is this, again, something that's problematic? Is it a misspeak, as he said? I mean, how does a presidential candidate say that kind of thing and survive?

FERGUSON: I thought this Oriental embarrassment was worse for him, actually, than the sexual harassment, because not knowing that China was already a nuclear power seems like a bit of a game-changer for somebody's credibility as a potential president. So when I saw that, I must say, I wrote him off, because if you don't know that, what else don't you know? I mean, this is Sarah Palin territory. She used to say stuff like that. And everybody said, "Forget her." And I think that actually -- the really serious thing that's happened to him is that he's lost his credibility.

WILL: Cain is a leading indicator for this month of a multi-month phenomenon, which is resistance to Mitt Romney. Now, what Mitt Romney's people say -- and I've talked to someone who really knows -- is with him in New Hampshire and worries about that (inaudible) knows it, he says, the cure to a lack of enthusiasm is winning, once you start winning.

AMANPOUR: They think he'll win in New Hampshire.

WILL: In New Hampshire -- they think he'll win in New Hampshire, and they're weighing the possibility of rolling the dice and trying to win in Iowa. If you win in Iowa and New Hampshire, it's over. So they think that the enthusiasm can be cured by success.

AMANPOUR: Let's -- let's play just something that Mitt Romney said, because obviously a lot of the discomfort with him is what people consider flip-flopping. So let's have a quick look at what he just said about this issue.


ROMNEY: ... cannot state every single issue in exactly the same words every single time, and so there are some folks who -- who, obviously, for various, you know, political and campaign purposes will try and find some change and -- and draw great attention to something which looks like a change, which, in fact, is entirely consistent.


WILL: The problem's not...

AMANPOUR: Convince you?

WILL: Well, the problem's not saying this mild nuances in his difference. In 1996, he denounced the flat tax as a tax cut for fat cats. This year, he says, "I love a flat tax." That's not a nuance.

DOWD: Well, and I -- fundamentally, the problem that he has and why he sits at this 25 percent (inaudible) and which -- why the Tea Party voters and the Republican Party won't vote for him, which is why conservatives don't want to vote for him, is they think that he's got a secret, and his secret is going to be he's going to win the nomination and, as soon as he wins the nomination, he's going to go back to what he was in Massachusetts, and he's going to set himself up as a moderate to run against Barack Obama as a moderate businessman. That's what they think. And they're valid to fear -- much of the voters in the Republican Party are valid to fear that.

FERGUSON: Because that's what he's got to do to win. And I actually think the best-case scenario is that is -- is exactly what's going to happen. He'll get the nomination, and there will be lots of grumbling on the right, and then he will be the credible contender who actually beats Obama. I think right now, you'd be very unwise to bet against Mitt Romney becoming president.

WILL: Which is to say...

HUFFINGTON: But also remember, there is a dark horse, and that's Jon Huntsman, who does know that China has nuclear capabilities.

(UNKNOWN): He's been there.


(UNKNOWN): I give Herman Cain -- I give Herman Cain a better shot than Jon Huntsman.

HUFFINGTON: You don't know that.


AMANPOUR: OK, but the latest predictors say that Jon Huntsman would be -- I mean, if you look at the New York Times, that mathematical algorithm they came out with, they say that actually Huntsman would be the most serious challenger, but he doesn't have a hope, it seems, because...


DOWD: The voters get to make that decision. And the voters do not like Jon Huntsman in the Republican Party.

HUFFINGTON: At the moment. At the moment. As all the front-runners are imploding, one after the other, and as Mitt Romney is so radioactive, to continue the nuclear metaphor, Jon Huntsman may be the last man standing.

DOWD: I think the next -- the next guy to rise is Newt Gingrich. If Herman Cain, in the course of this -- this week, and he doesn't handle it well, and there's more stories out, if he falls, the numbers aren't going to go, the votes aren't going to go to Mitt Romney yet. They're going to go to somebody else. And the natural one I think right now to go to is Newt Gingrich.

AMANPOUR: But is it still playing? Is it still just going and then -- are these the shifting or permanent numbers?

DOWD: I think it's going to be fluid until the Iowa caucus. And I think actually can happen up until the Iowa caucuses. I think it's fluid, because as George pointed out, there's this huge vote -- there's this huge vote out there that's moving around, that's 70 percent, 75 percent, that keeps wanting somebody other than Mitt Romney. Until they're forced to actually make the decision, they're going to keep moving.

AMANPOUR: How many of you watched the Rick Perry video?


DOWD: I've watched it.

FERGUSON: Quite enjoyed it, actually.

AMANPOUR: What do you think it says?

FERGUSON: I like -- I like that side of him, the sort of swaggering Texan. I can't get enough of that. The problem is, all the Texans I know can't stand him. And that seems like a pretty bad sign to me, because if he really was that guy that we saw, swaggering, they would love him.


HUFFINGTON: ... charitable explanation is that he was drunk.


FERGUSON: That's always a good sign of a politician. Think of Churchill.

HUFFINGTON: His campaign should come out and admit it.

DOWD: I've seen -- I've seen Rick Perry before in Texas and have watched him for 25 years. I have seen that side of him, and it's not necessarily related, people say, to pain-killers, or whatever. He sometimes does that. That's some sort of his -- what he does. He sort of loosens up and has that shtick. I actually think in some ways it could help him, because part of the thing, he's been too stiff, and he hasn't performed well, until you get a little bit goofy. And there's parts in that that were a little bit goofy.

FERGUSON: Yeah, he went too far.

AMANPOUR: A little goofy.

FERGUSON: He went too far.

AMANPOUR: But, George, he has sort of stiffened up his campaign process. He's retooled. He's got more people.

WILL: First of all, you know the wrong Texans, because the majority of Texans...

FERGUSON: I know the right Texans.


WILL: ... keep re-electing him. Well, you know a minority.


WILL: Second, the people in the room in New Hampshire seemed to like it. Third, now, about Mitt Romney, Mitt Romney may be our Henry of Navarre. Navarre famously converted to Catholicism to keep the throne, saying memorably, as all politicians eventually do, "Paris is well worth a mass," and it may work for Mitt Romney.

AMANPOUR: All right. And the rest will continue on our roundtable in the green room.

And up next, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and the Republicans who would be president. Stay with us.


AMANPOUR: A deadly morning in Baghdad today, as three bombs exploded in a sprawling market. The attack came as shoppers were preparing for the Muslim festival of Eid. And it comes just hours after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told his security forces to prepare for stepped-up violence.

The backdrop, of course, is the U.S. decision to pull out of Iraq by the end of the year. It's a decision that now has some concerned that Al Qaida will re-establish a foothold in the country, all questions for former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She has a new memoir, "No Higher Honor." And I spoke with her earlier.


AMANPOUR: Madam Secretary, thank you for joining us.

RICE: It's a pleasure to be with you, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: So you write in your book, obviously, a lot about the Bush administration, the Bush years. You also talk about when you first met the current president, Barack Obama, during a hearing, and you say his questions were sharp, not rude, he actually seemed interested in my answers. And you say you were really impressed. And lot of people questioned whether he had what it took to be commander-in-chief of the lone superpower. Did he prove them wrong?

RICE: Obviously, I think Barack Obama has done a number of things right, particularly in the war on terror. And I think that President Obama has, indeed, carried the war on terror forward in a very effective way.

AMANPOUR: So let me ask you, then, about the most controversial of events of your tenure, and that was the Iraq war. For better or for worse, the United States is in it. President Obama has now decided to call an end and to bring all the troops out, portraying it actually as a triumph. Others are saying it was a defeat. Do you think it was right not to push and keep for -- I mean, at the very least, 10,000 U.S. troops to guarantee some kind of security, to train, and to be there for counterterrorism?

RICE: Frankly, I think it would help the regional balance to have a residual American presence there. We need to find a way to help the Iraqis sustain themselves through this period and to -- to deal with their somewhat meddlesome neighbor in Iran.

AMANPOUR: Of course, the administration says it's because the Iraqis wouldn't agree to immunity. But the real issue is that this administration insisted on it ceding to State Department and Pentagon lawyers' demand that they get this immunity ratified by the Iraqi parliament. You did not do that. You got the agreement without forcing it through the parliament. Why did they have to do that? Was it a mistake for President Obama to do that?

RICE: Well, Christiane, I'm really rather reluctant to criticize negotiations that I didn't participate in. But it would have clearly been better to have a residual force, from my point of view, and perhaps there was a way out of the immunity clause that wasn't taken.

AMANPOUR: So is there a risk now of everything that America paid unraveling?

RICE: Yes. What is at risk here is not just the sacrifice of the United States, which is considerable, but also a pillar of a new kind of democratic stability in the Middle East.

AMANPOUR: And perhaps equally important, if not more, is Afghanistan. The Obama administration sources are telling me are likely to change their role, even before 2014, from a combat to a much lesser role, maybe advisory. Is that safe at this time? Is the Taliban anywhere near being defeated?

RICE: Well, I'm not inside, but I don't see that the Taliban is anywhere near being defeated. And, in fact, if you're looking for some kind of political arrangement, then ultimately there will have to be a political arrangement in Afghanistan, that brings former warring elements in. But if you're looking for that arrangement, you should be in the strongest position, not the weakest. And I don't think that right now the Afghan government and the NATO mission is in a position to make that kind of political deal. So, yes, I think there's a considerable risk in speeding up a timetable for Afghanistan.

AMANPOUR: In your book, you also write about Iran. The IAEA, the nuclear agency of the U.N., this week is about to reveal, apparently, more details showing, apparently, that Iran is trying to weaponize. Do you think the United States, the Obama administration, has to ratchet up the confrontation? You talked this week about confronting Iran. Does that involve military confrontation by the U.S.?

RICE: Well, the United States should certainly make clear that the president of the United States will consider military action, if necessary, because you never want to take that card off the table.

I think there are other ways to confront Iran. You can confront Iran through even tougher sanctions. And I also think, Christiane, this is one of the downsides of having our forces out of -- out of Iraq, because we can confront the Iranians in Iraq.

So, yes, I think it's time to confront the Iranian regime, because it's the poster child for state sponsorship of terrorism. It's trying to get a nuclear weapon. It's repressed its own people. The regime has absolutely no legitimacy left. We should be doing everything we can to bring it down and never take military force off the table.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about 2012. I want to ask you in terms of foreign policy. You know, Republicans, they describe themselves as the adults and the pragmatists on foreign policy. And yet in this particular campaign, they all seem like they're rushing to the exits when it comes to foreign policy or, in the case of Herman Cain, kind of making fun of a lack of knowledge. I mean, he did the whole Uzbeki-beki-bekistan. Do you find that a little cavalier?

RICE: Well, I think in retrospect it probably wasn't a great thing to say, if you're running for president. And foreign policy ought to be more a part of the debate than it is, because we're so interconnected.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Cain stumbled seriously this week on an issue when he said that China has, quote, "indicated that they're trying to develop a nuclear capability." Obviously, we all know that China has been a nuclear power since the 1960s. Were you alarmed by this statement, by this lack of knowledge?

RICE: Well -- well, I don't know the context in which he said it. People sometimes misspeak. But I will say this: When you are...

AMANPOUR: Do you really think it was a misspeak? I mean, it was a long -- it was a long statement.

RICE: I don't -- I don't know. Christiane, I wasn't listening...

AMANPOUR: But does it worry you?

RICE: And I really don't -- I don't know. It -- it concerns me that we are not having a discussion about foreign policy. And, obviously, I would suggest that anybody who's going to run for president of the United States spend some time on the basics on foreign policy.

I remember when I was working with George W. Bush. He'd been governor of Texas. He knew Mexico and Latin America well, but he spent a lot of time in 1999 really addressing the issues, bringing people to the governor's mansion to talk to him about foreign policy. We had seminars at George Shultz's house. Anybody who's running for president really owes it to the American people to take the time to do that.

AMANPOUR: Madam Secretary, thank you so much for joining me.


AMANPOUR: And up next, is there new evidence that Mitt Romney is making a hard play for Iowa? We've got the details in "Next Week in Politics," your cheat sheet to the 2012 campaign. That and the Sunday funnies, coming up.


AMANPOUR: Now for a look at what's coming up next week in politics.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Mitt Romney flirts with Iowa voters on Monday, campaigning in Dubuque and Davenport. Is he in it to win it? Only time will tell.

That night, Herman Cain's mea-not-culpa tour takes him to Jimmy Kimmel's couch.

Tuesday, Bill Clinton steals the limelight again when his "Back to Work" book of economic solutions goes on sale.


And the Republican candidates gather in Michigan Wednesday for their umpteenth debate, this one on the economy. And if you're waiting for the foreign policy debate, well, that's next Saturday in South Carolina.

So, a busy week on the campaign trail, and the candidates' every move these days is fodder for the late-night comedians, which leads us right into the "Sunday Funnies."


WOODRUFF: Do you view China as a potential military threat?

CAIN: They indicated that they're trying to develop nuclear capability.

STEWART: Yes, China has indicated it would like to develop nuclear capability, perhaps as soon as the 1960s.


O'BRIEN: Herman Cain is having to respond to claims that he once sexually harassed women. Apparently a German woman kept telling Cain, "Nein, nein, nein!"


(UNKNOWN): Governor Walker's administration will allow people with training and concealed carry permits to bring concealed weapons into the state capitol.

COLBERT: I promise, this does not mean you're going to be seeing images of gunfire in the statehouse, because while guns are allowed, cameras are not. Thank God.



AMANPOUR: We'll be right back.


AMANPOUR: And now, "In Memoriam."


ROONEY: There's no doubt about it: Dogs are nicer than people.

... the drug companies could come up with a pill that would cure us of the evil in our nation, things like hate, jealousy, dishonesty, selfishness...

All this time, I've been paid to say what is on my mind on television. You don't get any luckier in life than that.


AMANPOUR: And we remember all of those who died in war this week. The Pentagon released the names of seven soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

We'll be right back.


AMANPOUR: And on Tuesday, a year until the election, ABC News and Yahoo bring you an unprecedented online event, live interviews with all the leading Republican candidates. I sit down with Governor Rick Perry in Texas. And you can now go to abcnews.com to submit questions.

And then on Tuesday, watch the candidates answer on abcnews.com and yahoo.com. It's your voice, your vote.

That's our program this week. For all of us here, thank you for watching, and we'll see you next week.


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