‘This Week’ Transcript: Ambassador Sergey Kislyak

ByABC News
March 30, 2014, 6:13 AM
PHOTO: Roundtable on 'This Week'
ABC News Contributor and Former Obama White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe, ABC News Contributor and Democratic Strategist Donna Brazile, ABC News Contributor and The Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, ABC News Political Analyst and Special Correspondent Matthew Dowd on 'This Week'
ABC News

March 30, 2014— -- Below is the rush transcript for "This Week" on March 30, 2014 and it may contain errors.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning and welcome to This Week.

Showdown: Putin amasses more troops, Obama demands a pullback. Is a new invasion next, or will diplomacy prevail? We get answers from Putin's man in Washington, an ABC News exclusive.

Christie's comeback?


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: People do inexplicably stupid things.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Has the feisty governor put Bridgegate behind him, or will another shoe drop? We have exclusive interviews with the two dueling investigators.

Plus, baseball's opening day is here, and ESPN's Keith Olbermann joins us live.

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

STEPHANOPOULOS: Hello, again. Lots of ground to cover this Sunday morning. So let's get right to the latest on the search for flight 370.

With the clock ticking down on those black box batteries, more ships and planes have joined the massive effort to identify new debris.

ABC's David Wright is embedded in the search. Good morning, David.

WRIGHT: Good morning, George. From the deck of the Ocean Shield, an Australian vessel built to handle the roughest seas, sub-Antarctic conditions. This ship is now getting set to ship out into the search area.


WRIGHT: It'll take three to four days just to reach the search area. Hopefully by then, search teams will have found the debris field from Flight 370. Today, ten planes are out looking, several of them reporting they have spotted objects in the water. But until surface vessels are able to retrieve them, we won't know if they're from the missing plane.

The Ocean Shield will be searching under the water, towing a U.S. navy pinger locator like this one, listening for the beacons on those black boxes.

How big a noise does this thing make?

CAPT. MARK MATTHEWS, U.S. NAVY: You can see the size. If you were to put it in the water, you wouldn't be able to hear it with your ear.

WRIGHT: The vessel is also carrying a U.S. Navy submersible robot to be used to map any underwater wreckage and plan how best to salvage it.

How long a journey are you preparing for?

CAPT. NICHOLAS WOODS, AUSTRALIAN DEFENCE VESSEL OCEAN SHIELD: We're preparing for anywhere up to 45 days.

WRIGHT: And in a sign that Malaysia is no longer calling all the shots, a retired member of Australia's equivalent of the joint chiefs of staff took command of the multinational task force searching these waters. Time is of the essence now, not least because the batteries on those black box recorders are running out.

For This Week, David Wright, on board the Ocean Shield, Garden Island, Australia.


STEPHANOPOULOS: And ABC's aviation consultant Steve Ganyard joins us now. Steve, we just heard from David Wright, the clock is ticking, those batteries could run out by early next week. This is make or break time.

GANYARD: It sure is, George. If you remember in the past couple weeks down here in these lower search areas, we have really been chasing ghosts on satellite images. But in the past couple days, an international body of aviation experts looked at the data and said, no, we think the best place to look is up here in this new search area. It's some 700 miles to the northeast of the old search area.

The good news is that these waters aren't as rough, the currents aren't nearly as difficult and some of the water is a little bit shallower.

But if you look at this, it's the size of the country of Poland. And really we're back to square one on the search area.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And if those black boxes go silent, we may never know what happened.

GANYARD: That's right. And the black boxes are going to be heard, as we -- as David Wright just saw, coming off from a ship that will be -- have to transit out to this area. It will take three or four days to get out there. And then when they do their operations, they will work only as fast as a person can walk. So, think about that. Searching something the size of Poland at only a walking pace.

You can see that we have three to four days before that pinger runs out, and so time is of the essence.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What a job ahead.

OK, Steve Ganyard, thanks very much.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to turn now to the crisis over Ukraine. Overnight, Crimea moved clocks forward two hours to be on Moscow time. And with Russian troops continuing to mass on the Ukraine border, Secretary of State John Kerry will engage in some last ditch diplomacy with Russia's foreign minister today in Paris.

ABC's chief foreign correspondent Terry Moran is there. Good morning, Terry.

MORAN: Good morning, George.

The very fact that Secretary of State Kerry has flown here for these talks is in and of itself a good sign, that is because there is so much tension right now and so much uncertainty on both sides about what the other side might do.

And Ukraine remains on a hair trigger.


MORAN: This is the flash point of the world right now. Russian tanks and troops pouring up to the tense border between Russia and Ukraine. Routine military exercises, that's what Russia claims. But at the Pentagon, deep skepticism.

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We don't have a full knowledge of their intent, but regardless of the intent it does nothing to deescalate the tension.

MORAN: U.S. intelligence agencies now estimate there are up to 40,000 to 50,000 Russian troops along Ukraine's eastern borders.

So what does Putin want? Across the lands of the former Soviet Union, there are millions of Ethnic Russians, just like in Crimea.

Putin now claims the right to defend all of them, whatever that means.

President Obama, in response, is relying European allies and warning of the dangers of Putin's new doctrine.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the 21st century, the borders of Europe cannot be redrawn with force.

MORAN: Fine words, but Obama's real options are limited. The White House has ruled out a military response and some European leaders are deeply reluctant to impose tough sanctions on Russia that might derail their own fragile economies.

So Mr. Obama has tried another tact -- belittling Russia altogether.

OBAMA: Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors, not out of strength, but out of weakness.

MORAN: After Crimea, some analysts say, that sounds unconvincing.

JULIA IOFFE, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": The impression is that Putin has flipped the bird to the entire world and what can the U.S. do about it?

If he were to take Eastern Ukraine and Southern Ukraine, the U.S. wouldn't be able to do anything about that.

Is that really a position of weakness?


MORAN: Well, at these talks here in Paris, Russia is demanding that Ukraine change its form of government, its constitution, to give more autonomy to pro-Russian areas and change its foreign policy, pledging to be non-aligned rather than join Europe.

The United States is insisting that only the Ukrainian people should decide all that -- George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, Terry, thanks very much.

Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, joins us now.

Mr. Ambassador, thank you for joining us.

The United States is making it very clear that any diplomatic solution must include a pull-back of Russian troops from Crimea.

Is Russia prepared to meet that condition?

KISLYAK: Well, first of all, thank you for having me.

Secondly, what kind of pull-back from Crimea are you talking about?

We are now in the territory of the Russian Federation, because there are a lot of things that have happened. And one has to be realist about it.

There was an expressed will of people living in Crimea to become a part of Russian Federation at that moment when there was an unconstitutional take over of power with the use of force in Kiev.

And, uh, they felt that this is a moment that is threatening the way -- the lives they wanted to conduct.

So Crimea is a part of the Russian Federation and...

STEPHANOPOULOS: How about -- how about Eastern Ukraine, sir?

Can you state unequivocally that Russian troops will not push into Eastern Ukraine?

KISLYAK: Well, we have said so many times that we have no intent, no interest in crossing the border. Before...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But does that mean you won't do it?

KISLYAK: Well, we are not planning to. We have our forces conducting the exercises in the territory of the Russian Federation, I would like to remind you, in the territory of the Russian Federation. That is a normal exercise that we are conducting. Moreover, we have offered transparency over the issue. And there were a number of overflies done, including by our Ukrainian numbers and friends, just for them to be sure that there was nothing happening that would be considered threatening to their interests.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You heard President Obama label Russia a regional power acting out of weakness.

Your response?

KISLYAK: Well, if a -- you consider Russia a regional power, look at the region that we are in. It's from Europe to Asia. It's quite a significant region in the first place.

Secondly, I think that those categorizations are very artificial. We are a country with a lot of interests and a lot of things that we can contribute to throughout the world. But we certainly are not going to (INAUDIBLE) anyway.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Will there be a diplomatic solution to this crisis?

KISLYAK: I hope so. And it's something that we have been trying to work on for quite a long period of time. We have developed our own ideas. We understand what can be of help to the Ukrainian people, because the biggest problem -- and you need to remember this, is not between Ukraine and Russia, it's between Ukrainian temporary government and the rest of the country.

It's a country that certainly needs a revision of the constitution that would include a mechanism where the regions would be heard and the views will be taken on board.

And it's something that is important. And if the international community can help the Ukrainians to do this process, that would certainly be helpful.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for your time this morning.

KISLYAK: Thank you very much.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now to Chris Christie, back in the news and back on offense after an internal review cleared him of any wrongdoing in the Bridge Gate scandal. The head of that investigation and a competing one in the state legislature are both here live.

First, the back story from ABC's Jim Avila.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Excuse me. Excuse me. Stop.

JIM AVILA, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Chris Christie got his mojo back.

CHRISTIE: Can you get to it already?

AVILA: It took nearly three months and a 1 million taxpayer dollars for a hand-picked law firm to find it, clearing the New Jersey governor of any responsibility for Bridgegate. The scandal had knocked some of the swagger from the governor.

Look at Christie's face 76 days ago when his deputy chief of staff's famous e-mail humiliated the then front-running GOP presidential candidate.

And look at him now, when asked why he was kept in the dark by staff.

CHRISTIE: That's not a revolving door where anybody can walk in any time they want on any topic and just willy-nilly have at me. I mean, I'm the governor of New Jersey.

AVILA: Chris Christie may be feeling pretty good about the investigation he could control. But the next two he cannot, including one underway here at the State House in New Jersey, and the next critical one, the U.S. attorney's probe.

The federal investigation could take two years to complete. But with the endorsement of his own lawyers, Governor Christie began a media blitz this week that began with an exclusive ABC News interview with Diane Sawyer.

CHRISTIE: This report says that I had no knowledge of it before it happened, nor did I authorize it or have anything to do with it. Ask that's the truth.

AVILA: The report and the governor blame that fired deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly, who released a statement calling the report venomous and offering to cooperate with the federal investigation if granted immunity.

For This Week, Jim Avila, ABC News, Trenton, New Jersey.


STEPHANOPOULOS: We are joined now by the co-chair of the legislative committee investigating this matter, New Jersey assemblyman, John Wisniewski.

Thank you for coming in this morning.

You know, you have joined the critics of this internal investigations, calling it a whitewash. But has your own investigation turned up any bit of evidence that showed that Governor Christie even knew about this slowdown or authorized it?

WISNIEWSKI: We haven't had a chance to talk to some of the key players, as this report has not either. Bridget Kelly who sent the e-mail that said time for traffic in Fort Lee. We don't know why she sent that, we don't know who authorized her to send that. It's hard to believe, understanding how this governor's office works, that one morning she woke up and decided I think it would be a great idea to cause traffic.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But she has not -- to be clear, you have not found any evidence yet.

WISNIEWSKI: We have not found any evidence, and are not finished.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're not finished yet, but why -- do you have any reason to believe that Bridget Kelly is going to talk to your investigation? She has made it pretty clear through her lawyer that she's only willing to go forward and speak to authorities, law enforcement authorities if she gets some kind of immunity.

WISNIEWSKI: We're waiting for Judge Jacobson's decision on the documents. She was a state employee. She has an obligation to make those documents available. We believe that we will have an opportunity to look at those documents.

I think they will speak volumes as to what we need to know to move the investigation forward. But it's far too early to start concluding that the governor knew nothing, had nothing to do with this. It's just far too early.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you had the same documents from Mr. Wildstein that has gone to the Mastro committee again. Nothing in those documents that shows he knew about it.

WISNIEWSKI: There's the email that goes between Mike Juniak where he marks up the exit statement. For a man that only weeks earlier -- I'm sorry, weeks later the governor said he barely knew.

And so it really begs the question is the governor so deeply involved in crafting an exit statement for David Wildstein, yet had no knowledge.

What I'm saying, George, is it's far too early to draw any conclusive decisions about who knew what in this investigation.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But if you're not going to get key testimony from these key players, why not just leave this to the U.S. attorney?

WISNIEWSKI: Well, we don't know what we're going to get. We are waiting for Judge Jacobson's decision. I think we ought to wait for that decision. We ought to look at the rest of the documents. We're still going through thousands of pages of documents.

This report draws a lot of conclusions and speculation. There's no footnotes to any of the testimony that was taken or interviews that were taken. This report really rushes a judgment that is too early to make.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. Mr. Assemblyman, thanks so much for joining us.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Randy Mastro, the head of that internal investigation, joins us now. You just heard Mr. Wisniewski says it's a rush to judgment.

RANDY MASTRO, PARTNER, GIBSON, DUNN & CRUTCHER: Well, George, we looked at 250,000 pages of documents, interviewed more than 70 witnesses, and as Mr. Wisniewski just admitted, we haven't seen a shred of evidence that the governor knew anything about this lane realignment decision beforehand.

If it were there in the hard evidence, we would have seen it. They have got all the documents responsive to our subpoena relating to the George Washington Bridge incident. They have the same information that we have. And Mr. Wisniewski and his committee have been at this for five months.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you respond to the charge of conflict of interest. Your own law firm was also working for the Port Authority. Isn't that a conflict of interest on its face?

MASTRO: No, it isn't, George.

The representation of the Port Authority, which has been cleared by the Port Authority, was something where both governors offices agreed that my firm should represent the Port Authority. We had access to Port Authority documents as well.

Let me be clear. We have no incentive at our law firm to do anything other than get to the truth. We will be judged at the end of the day by whether we got it right, and, George, we believe we got it right. We had to work even harder to get it right.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So much hinges on Bridget Kelly. And her lawyers had a harsh statement on your report. Here's what it says.

It says "This report's venomous, gratuitous and inappropriate sexist remarks concerning Ms. Kelly have no place in what is alleged to be an professional and independent report. The only credible investigation into the lane closings is being conducted by the U.S. attorney's office.

"If Ms. Kelly were provided with the appropriate procedural safeguards, she will be fully cooperative."

She's not alone in saying that -- including some of these details about her personal life, describing her as emotional was sexist and gratuitous.

Your response?

MASTRO: I'm glad you asked because we treated both David Wildstein and Bridget Kelly exactly the same. They deserved the assessment that we gave both of them about their personal conduct and about their actions, exactly the same way, because they violated the public trust.

And that's what the evidence showed, George. All of it relevant to not only their consciousness and guilt, but their culpability. And in Bridget Kelly's case, if I say may say, Bridget Kelly not only sent the email, but showed ulterior motive. Time for --


STEPHANOPOULOS: What is that ulterior motive?

MASTRO: Well, George, I'm glad you asked that, too, because we say what we know and what we don't know. We can't establish what the ulterior motive because we didn't have the chance to question Kelly and Wildstein.

But George, it is obvious there was one to target the Ft. Lee and the mayor of Ft. Lee because of Bridget Kelly and Wildstein's exchanges. And if I just may say this, George, Bridget Kelly not only sent the e-mail that said "Time for some traffic problems in Ft. Lee," she then, after the fact, when the governor sent his chief of staff to find out whether she knew about this beforehand, she called a subordinate that night and asked her to destroy incriminating evidence.

Bridget Kelly is at the heart of the problem here, so is David Wildstein, and they were both treated exactly as they should have been in our report. They abused the public trust. And they should be held accountable.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Final quick question: are you confident that your report will not be contradicted by the U.S. attorney?

MASTRO: George, we are because we had no incentive to do anything other than to get to the truth. And I have to say this, for the skeptics out there, there are some who have a visceral reaction to this bridge controversy. Reminds me of the movie line, "They can't handle the truth." We believe we got to the truth, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We will find out. Thank you very much.

MASTRO: Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And coming up in just two minutes, star wars, the unexpected new frontier in American manufacturing. David Muir tracking what's made in America.

But can those jobs secure our country's economic future?

Our experts weigh in on that.

And Keith Olbermann breaks down baseball's new season in our Sunday spotlight.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Spartanburg, South Carolina got a big boost this week when BMW announced a $1 billion investment adding 800 new jobs. Another victory for made in America.

But how much can we count on manufacturing to fuel our economic future?

Our experts analyze that key question after this report from "WORLD NEWS WEEKEND" anchor, David Muir.


DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS ANCHOR (voice-over): We're first began asking the question three years ago -- does anyone in America check the labels anymore?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I know, I know your show.


MUIR: An eye-opening number after World War II, the '50s and '60s, fewer than one in 10 products bought in this country were actually made outside the US. Today, more than 50 percent of what we buy is made elsewhere.

Three years later and the headlines that some manufacturing is actually coming back. Even the president with his made in America message in his State of the Union.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We also have the chance, right now, to beat other countries in the race for the next wave of high tech manufacturing jobs, new goods stamped, "Made in the USA."

MUIR: But this morning, a reality check.

Are manufacturing jobs coming back?

We were the first taken inside this factory, making computers in America again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are the desktops.

MUIR: The computer maker, Lenovo, now with a factory near Raleigh.

(on camera): So you're making computers?


MUIR: That had been made in China?


MUIR: Now they're being made here?


MUIR: Did you think you'd see the day?


MUIR (voice-over): And there's Curtis Richardson. His computer job had been outsourced.

CURTIS RICHARDSON: Yes, I'm back in the job.

MUIR: Now, he's quality control, make sure there's sound coming from that computer.

(on camera): Music to your ears.

RICHARDSON: Music to my ears.

MUIR (voice-over): Why bring jobs back?

Lenovo telling us what many companies are now saying, that once you factor in growing wages in China and fuel costs to ship products back to America, it now makes economic sense to bring some manufacturing back.

(on camera): A lot of people argue that the jobs lost in the '80s and '90s will never come back.

HAL SIRKIN, LENOVO: Well, there -- we're seeing different jobs now, more highly skilled jobs.

MUIR (voice-over): Some of those jobs being created at Apple. CEO Tim Cook recently announcing in a Tweet, "We've begun manufacturing the Mac Pro in Austin" -- Austin, Texas.

(on camera): How big of a deal is that to you?

TIM COOK, CEO, APPLE: It's a big deal, but we think we can do more. We -- we also announced a huge investment in Arizona. We haven't said what it's for.

MUIR: Is it the Sapphire Glass?

COOK: It's the Sapphire announcement and that's sort of all I'll say about it.

MUIR: When does that glass come off the line?

COOK: I -- I can't tell you that.

MUIR: For bigger iPhone screens?

COOK: I -- I can't tell you that either.

MUIR: An iWatch?

Or a ring?

You heard it here first.

(voice-over): And one more sign of high tech jobs coming back. South of Los Angeles, we arrived at SpaceX, where their flight plan is entirely made in America. They've already been hired by NASA to send supplies to the International Space Station.

(on camera): And this right here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a dragon capsule.

MUIR: And I think the windows are very telling, aren't they?



MUIR: Because they don't just want to send supplies, they want to be the ones who send American astronauts back into space again.

(on camera): Right now, this is the only capsule actually made in America, making that trip to the International Space Station. And come on and I'll give you an idea of the scope of space inside. This is actually where they put the supplies and equipment for scientific research.

(voice-over): Thirty-seven hundred workers at SpaceX, more than 4,000 by year's end, they say. And when that next capsule takes off within days, it will not only be mission accomplished, it will be made in America.


MUIR: For THIS WEEK, I'm David Muir in Hawthorne, California.


STEPHANOPOULOS: And let's dig into this now with our experts.

Steven Rattner, the former head of President Obama's Auto Task Force, and Zachary Karabell, author of "The Leading Indicators: A Short History of the Numbers That Rule Our World."

Welcome to you both.

And Steve, let me start with you first.

You know, you worked hard to preserve manufacturing jobs on that auto task force. But you also have written that we have to get real about the renaissance in American manufacturing.

What do you mean by that?

STEVE RATTNER, FORMER COUNSELOR TO THE TREASURY SECRETARY: George, when I served on the Auto Task Force, it was a real eye-opener for me I had not spent a lot of time in the manufacturing sector.

And what I saw was a sector that's under enormous global pressure from competition. We lost six million manufacturing jobs from 2000 until 2009.

Since 2009, when the recession ended, we've gained back fewer than 600,000. We've actually gained manufacturing jobs back at a slower rate than we gained other jobs back in this economy.

And the part besides jobs that people don't pay enough attention to is wages. A lot of those jobs that are coming back are coming back at much lower wages than the jobs we've lost.

In autos, the old line manufacturing workers got $28 an hour in cash wages plus benefits. In Chattanooga, where Volkswagen has 2,000 new jobs, they brought those jobs back at $14.50 an hour.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So does that mean we give up on manufacturing or do it better?

ZACHARY KARABELL, AUTHOR, "THE LEADING INDICATORS": You know, there's a real interesting problem today, which I thought we can have a manufacturing revival of sorts, meaning we could have really high tech factories producing lots of stuff without creating lots of jobs.

So in the segment that introduced this, 800 jobs in that BMW plant that opened. That same plant had it opened 30, 40 years ago certainly would have been 3,000, 4,000 jobs. They would have been higher paying, too, in adjusted wages.

So we could have the situation where you have got all these innovation hubs that President Obama is talking about, lots of high-tech, interesting output that adds to our GDP, make us look optically better without the kind of job creation that would have come with those factories --


STEPHANOPOULOS: So what's the smart way, Steve, to insource better jobs?

RATTNER: I think you have to, again, be realistic about what the future of our economy is going to be. As Zach said, we will have some more manufacturing jobs. There are some good proposals around for how to do that.

From education, training, these manufacturing innovation institutes that the president proposed, certainly dealing with our infrastructure problems, dealing with immigration, the same laundry list that you talk about every Sunday will help manufacturing.

The problem, of course, is that nothing's getting done in Washington.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But Washington can make a difference here.

KARABELL: You know, I think Washington can make a marginal amount of difference in creating interesting little zones. States can make a lot more difference, and individual decisions can make the most amount of difference.

Unless Washington re-creates the Works Progress Administration a la the 1930s and actually goes out and hires people to do stuff, I don't think Washington as a job creator, even with stimulus, is necessarily what is going to lead the way between whatever economy we have now and the economy we need.

And the kinds of things, you know, again, this gets into the whole education question of skills and choices about what it is you are going to do with your time and your life.

Because it is certainly true that a lot of these manufacturing hubs are actually having a hard time finding people who have the requisite skills, which are much more like software and innovation and creativity than they are like doing road -- line work like they way you would have in the 1930s, '40s and '50s.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And these are the jobs we want to value and encourage in the future, right?

RATTNER: We certainly want these kinds of advanced manufacturing jobs. But remember this, manufacturing wages today in America on a per-hour basis are actually a bit lower than average wages in the economy as a whole.

And what I mean by that is there are lots of really good, high-paying jobs in sectors like education, like I.T., like health care, service sectors that don't-- are not just entry-level jobs, but really high-paying jobs. And this is our competitive advantage. And so I'm not saying we should tilt one way or the other. But a lot of these ideas for how to stimulate manufacturing, special tax rates and all this kind of stuff, I think, is a mistake.

KARABELL: Although, I mean, it is true that some of these higher-end manufacturing jobs at $15, $16, $20 an hour are certainly better than the entry-level Walmart job or the entry-level McDonald's job, a lot of which are the jobs that are currently being created. I mean those are not good wage jobs.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And that is the last word today . Thank you both very much.

Up next, the powerhouse roundtable ready to go.

Is Chris Christie back on track or permanently derailed for 2016?

What is behind the surge in ObamaCare signups and President Obama's NSA reversal?

Plus --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do managers matter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course they do. I'm one of them, and I'm looking for a job.

STEPHANOPOULOS (voice-over): How important is a baseball manager? The stats are going to surprise you. And we're back in just two minutes.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's flip the script a little. Do something that goes totally viral. What we're going to do, hold this healthcare.gov sign, and give you Pharrell's hat. And an e-cigarette to vape on. All right? They are going to eat this up.

I don't think we should do this. And it's.

Three, two, one. OK. Got it.


STEPHANOPOULOS: "Saturday Night Live" having some fun with the president's push for ObamaCare. The White House is touting a surge in enrollments, but does that really mean the plan will succeed?

The roundtable weighs on that and all the week's politics in after this from ABC's Jeff Zeleny.


JEFF ZELENY, ABC NEWS SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the courts to the campaign trail.





ZELENY (voice-over): One word is driving the political debate. The final day to enroll is coming up tomorrow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is no delay beyond March 31st.

ZELENY (voice-over): Well, not exactly. The Obama administration's now saying you can ignore tomorrow's deadline if you've had trouble signing up and need more time to buy insurance. That decision reignited Republican outrage.

JOHN BOEHNER, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: What the hell is this, a joke?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, MINORITY LEADER: It's basically become the legal equivalent of Swiss cheese.

ZELENY (voice-over): All this putting Democrats back on the defensive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have been very critical over the past months of the Obama administration's rollout.

Why is this latest extension not the same thing?

SEN. HARRY REID, MAJORITY LEADER: The rollout was really bad, but let's look at what's happened since that. We have millions of people who have signed up, millions.

ZELENY (voice-over): The administration says at least 6 million people have already signed up, 1 million short of the original goal. All this adding fresh fuel to a fight already shaping the midterm elections.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll help repeal ObamaCare.

ZELENY (voice-over): For THIS WEEK, Jeff Zeleny, ABC News, the Capitol.


STEPHANOPOULOS: The roundtable is here, our political analyst, Matthew Dowd; David Plouffe, he served as President Obama's campaign manager and senior strategist in the White House; Bill Kristol, editor of "The Weekly Standard" and democratic strategist, ABC consultant Donna Brazile.

Welcome to you all.

And Matthew, let me start with you. You just heard in the piece there Jeff Zeleny says the White House announces over 6 million. I saw some numbers this morning the signups could be approaching closer to 7 million by the deadline tomorrow.

So is this a sign of success?

MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEWS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is some sign of success. And for everybody that's criticized this, there are people that are getting access to this. There are people that are benefiting from this.

But I think the question on this, is I think first of all, that the political idea about this is it's now become detached from the president. Even if this succeeds, I think the president's job approval and where he stands in the country has now become more attached to the economy and less attached to ObamaCare.

But the question becomes, I think Republicans and some Democrats have asked, is at what cost are these successes -- do we have these successes? Because when five years from now, there's the projections are that health care will still be rising, the cost of health care will still be rising and there will probably 30 million people without access.

STEPHANOPOULOS: David Plouffe, what's the answer to that?

DAVID PLOUFFE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: The law's working. And this was a seminal achievement. You're going to have -- by the way, if you count people who are going directly to private insurance companies, Medicaid, children's health care, we're talking well more than 10 million people have health care, tens of millions of more have security.

And the politics of this are tough. They will always be tough. I think they'll get better over time. This law is working. And I think the Republican playbook of just repeal ObamaCare, repeal ObamaCare, repeal ObamaCare gets tougher as more and more people get health care. I think smart Republicans understand that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Isn't that true?

BILL KRISTOL, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes, two things are true. No actual Democratic senator running for reelection sounds like David Plouffe. They are not saying this law is working. They're saying, oh, my God, we can fix it. Here's some new proposals. Senator Mark Warner, Mark Begich is out there, unveiled a whole bunch of proposals to, quote, "fix ObamaCare" this week --

STEPHANOPOULOS: The Republican House will never do that, though, right?

KRISTOL: I don't think the Democrat Senate will do it. I don't think the Obama administration supports those proposals. They've resisted every attempts to do minor fixes and delays in ObamaCare except for the ones they unilaterally decide on. So first of all, I think in the real world, the real politics, the Democratic senators know that it's a big problem for them.

But I totally agree, Republicans simply -- and I have looked at a lot of polling over the last week or two on this, some of it private polling, good polling, I think.

If Republicans simply say get rid of it and let Democrats have the "keep it and fix it" position, then -- even then it's sort of 50-50. But then I think Democrats neutralize the issue.

If Republicans run on repeal and replace or really let's say replace and repeal, it has to be done at once. You can't just throw people out. But we are going to give you tax credits, we're going to take care of pre-existing conditions as part of the repeal, then the polling shows that becomes very, very popular.

BRAZILE: I think the Republicans are going to have a hard time trying to find their voice and get a message on repeal or replace at this juncture.

And for Democrats who I think are running in these so-called tough states, they're going to have a tough time running from so-called affordable health care for all people.

I think the real problem right now, George, is in these states where the Republican governors are still holding up Medicaid expansion. And soon enough there are going to be questions, why are you keeping people from getting the health care that they need to save their lives to save the state money? That's going to be the real conversation this fall.

No question Democrats, you know, at the retail level want to pivot back to the economy. They don't to want to have to explain all of the so-called Republican talking points, but they're not going to be able to run away from this issue.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Echoing that point, Bill Clinton is coming out this week saying Democrats should not run away from Obamacare.

DOWD: I think in the end the 2014 election, if you look at the fundamentals of the election, it's not going to be about Obamacare. There's flaws in it, there's successes in it. I think everybody can debate that.

I think Republicans have made a mistake by not acknowledging some success in it. I think they're not even asking the right questions. The right question is at what cost? Not -- I'm going to agree with Bill on this is that they should be coming up with a plan.

But anybody can have success if you dump billions and billions and billions of dollars in this. But 2014 is about the direction of the country, the economy, and how people feel in their lives. It's not going to be about Obamacare.

I agree with that. I think the big issue for '14 is even less atmospherics, it's about where these contests are held. Democrats are playing a lot of away games in the senate.

PLOUFFE: But even in these tough states -- we did this against Mitt Romney. You know, you can have an argument about health care, which is about -- there are things we should fix about it, but you're going to have seniors now pay more for prescription drugs, you're going to kick kids off health care plan, you're going to kick millions of people off the health care plan. That is not a winning message.

I think Democrats are going to be need to be more aggressive about selling the positive parts of the law. And by the way, not just those that are covered. The people who already have coverage are getting a lot of benefits, saving a lot of money.

KRISTOL: But most of it hadn't gone into effect when you defeated Mitt Romney now it has gone into effect. Seniors are seeing cuts in Medicare Advantage that were only hypothetical when Mitt Romney run.

PLOUFFE: And they're saving thousands of dollars in prescription drugs.

KRISTOL: I'm happy to have a referendum on Obamacare. And I think it will be (inaudible), I disagree with Matthew on that. I think it will be a referendum on Obamacare and will be good for Republicans.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to move on to Chris Christie, had that internal report. We saw the author of it here, clearing of them of any wrongdoing. He also started to get back on political offense, speaking out to Diane Sawyer about whether or not this whole matter has hurt his political prospects.


CHRISTIE: I am a passionate, loving, caring, direct, truth-teller. That's who I am. And for some people, they love it. And I tell you, when I travel around New Jersey, I hear from most people that that's the thing they love the most.


CHRISTIE: I think they love me in Iowa too, Diane. I've been there a lot. I think they love me there too.


STEPHANOPOULOS: I know that caught your eye, Bill Kristol. Reality check of how much of a difference this has made. He says he's going to make the decision next year and it's not held him back. In fact, he's learned from it, could make him a stronger candidate.

KRISTOL: Well, as a fellow compassionate loving, caring, truth-teller...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Who is loved in Iowa?

KRISTOL: Yeah. And I'm loved in Iowa and New Jersey and many of other places, you know, people tell me that all the time.

I mean, I don't know, maybe that's not the best way to approach your problem.

I'm struck by this, talking to some Republicans over the last week or two, this has hurt Chris Christie, there's no question. It doesn't mean he can't be a very strong presidential candidate. But the momentum he had two or three months ago, looked like he was going to be sort of the consensus choice of establishment Republicans, of a lot of the donor -- Republican donors. That has, I think, he's lost a lot of that.

Jeb Bush, I mean, everyone's now -- if you talk to your average Republican donor on the establishment side, it suddenly -- much more of the talk is about Jeb Bush and people are worried about Christie.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to get into that, because the "Washington Post" had a front page story this morning showing -- saying the GOP elite hoping to lure Jeb Bush, many donors view him as the best 2016 pick.

And here's this nut graph, Matthew Dowd, I want to say this to you, "many if not most 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney's major donors are reaching out to Bush and his confidants with phone calls, emails, invitations to meet, record interviews with 30 senior Republicans. One bundler estimated that the vast majority of Romney's top 100 donors would back Bush in a competitive nomination fight."

A lot of momentum here.

DOWD: Well, this is a sign of two things. Which is first of all, the identity of Christie's fall, because if Christie hadn't fallen, then I don't think there would be this outreach to Jeb Bush in the midst of this.

The other thing is that the Republicans are so disorganized in which they're not used to that and who their nominee is, they're looking for the safe pick in their mind. Jeb did a very good job as governor. He's a very good candidate. He's a safe pick.

But to me, is do we really want set this race up in 2016 where 340 million Americans live where it's Clinton versus Bush again. I think people are just tired of that. We have to have other candidates that don't have those two last names.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That may be, but you are seeing a lot of momentum behind both candidates right now, David Plouffe.

PLOUFFE: And listen, Bill and Matthew are the experts on the Republican nominating process, but my sort of amateur view of it is that I see the elites are gravitating to Bush now with Christie's fall and I agree with Bill he's not fatally wounded, but he's hurt.

But that's not where the energy is in the voters within Iowa and South Carolina. And I think there could be -- so I think at the end of the day, there's a lane for a Christie or a Bush. They'll probably end up facing off against a more conservative candidate. I still think that more conservative candidate has the advantage in Republican primaries in 2016.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Donna Brazile, I see you nodding your head, but to back up this idea that a lot of Republicans are looking for this mainstream candidate. Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire, one of the richest men in America has a confab out in Las Vegas this weekend, all of the governors looking for it, including Chris Christie, going out there. He delivered $93 million to super PACs last year, probably spent a lot more on the side.

This is a danger to Democrats, isn't it?

BRAZILE: Well, look, Sheldon Adelson put a lot of money behind a lot of losing candidates: Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, et cetera. He's looking for a winner. That's why the doors are now open to Jeb Bush.

The real energy on the Republican side -- I only know this because I travel in some Tea Party circles -- is Rand Paul. I mean, Rand Paul is the talk of the town. He's the one going on campuses out west at UC Berkeley, going to Howard University, visiting historical black colleges and universities. He's trying to open up a dialogue within the Republican Party.

Nobody wants to talk about him. But he has a network in all 50 states. So that's the game-changer in the Republican Party.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Every Republican going out and talking to Sheldon Adelson this week was kind of taking jabs at Rand Paul.

KRISTOL: Yes, look, I think Rand -- I think ultimately message trumps money or money follows message. And Rand Paul, I don't agree with him. I don't think he'll be the nominee, but I give him credit for having a real message that he pushes wherever he is.

DOWD: I do think you have to keep your eye on Rand Paul. He's very energetic. He has got a bunch of energy behind him. He's one of the only candidates where younger voters are enthusiastic about.

But I think I'm going to just go with something that Bill just said, I just think it's ridiculous that these candidates for president are trumping out to Las Vegas to go kiss the ring of a billionaire casino owner and they think that's somehow going help them get elected president.

They would be --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, money is going to help them --

DOWD: Well, I think money matters so much less than if your own capacity as a candidate, your own -- what is your message? What's your vision for the country? They'd be much better off spending time back in where they live instead of flying to Las Vegas and figuring out what's their message, what's their vision and they're going to convey it to the American public.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Final question I want to get to is this issue of NSA reforms. President Obama came out this week and announced that the government would no longer collect and hold this bulk phone data, said it would stay with the telephone companies absent a specific request from the government.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some of the dangers that people hypothesized when it came to bulk data, there were clear safeguards against. But I recognize that people were concerned about what might happen in the future with that bulk data. This proposal that's been presented to me would eliminate that concern.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Donna Brazile, the president answering the critics there. But has this "mend it, don't end it" approach enough to save the program?

BRAZILE: I don't think so, George. First of all, I'm glad that the president is ending the program. It was set to expire on Friday this past week. He's asking for a 90-day extension.

The ACLU said fine, but there are still other reforms that need to be taken. There are, of course, proposals on Capitol Hill that would not just end it, but end it completely so the phone companies will not have to carry and hold on to this data as well.

STEPHANOPOULOS: This could be headed this way, couldn't it?

DOWD: Well, I watched some of this with some incredulousness. First of all, we're supposed to trust a government that didn't tell us what was going on for years and years and how many records they were accessing and what they were looking at in the American public?

And now we're somehow supposed to trust the Federal government led by the President of the United States, who says here's what we're not going to do anymore?

I think the country is just so fed up with so many different things, but the least of which, they don't trust anyone in Washington telling them what they are or are not doing in this case.

PLOUFFE: No, I think this is a smart accommodation. We still need access to this. George, you had a security clearance; I had it; I think, Bill, you had it. You see these intelligence reports.

This is the fundamental first priority of any chief executive. So this still allows the administration, any administration, if they have got reason of concern, to access this information but now through a court order.

But I think it's a smart adjustment not to have the government hold this anymore. But I still think the phone companies have to have it, and the government has got to have quick access. But now Congress has to act here and it will be interesting to see what they do --


STEPHANOPOULOS: Will they act?

KRISTOL: I don't know. There's a good bipartisan proposal by the chairman and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee which does try to protect the country. People should go back before they pop off about the NSA and reread the 9/11 Commission report, the failure to connect the dots.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Some good advice right there. We're going to be back with Keith Olbermann on baseball's new season.

We also have a baseball theme for our "Powerhouse Puzzler," who was the first president to throw a pitch on opening day?

We're back in two minutes with the roundtable's guesses and the right answer.



STEPHANOPOULOS: So who was the first president to throw out a pitch on opening day?

I have to confess, I gave the roundtable an additional hint. I said this person could never actually play a game of baseball, which means you all got it right, right?

KRISTOL: Taft, most likely. Opening day tomorrow.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Washington Senators, April 14, 1910. We'll have a lot more baseball with Keith Olbermann when we come back.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Check out this baseball history unearthed this week at the University of South Carolina.

Babe Ruth at bat against another Hall of Famer, Walter Johnson. Johnson wins this one. And there is Yankee legend, Lou Gehrig, his second game in the lineup, the start of his incredible 2,130-game streak. There his right there.

And that great video brings us to our Sunday Spotlight on the brand new baseball season. ESPN's Keith Olbermann here with his take first. ABC's Ron Claiborne sat down with Nate Silver's gang at FiveThirtyEight who have a surprising theory, managers don't matter much.


RON CLAIBORNE, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Everyone knows the baseball manager is the leader of his team, master strategist, field general, who decides such things as when to take the pitcher out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Carlos Martinez coming in.

CLAIBORNE: When to bunt, when to steal a base.

As the manager goes, so goes the team, right? Wrong.

According to Neil Payne from FiveThirtyEight who did an exhaustive statistical analysis studying how players played under each manager and how they were expected to perform. His conclusion? Most managers had little, if any, effect on a game or a season.

NEIL PAYNE, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: They're all pretty much interchangeable in their ability to make players play better or worse than their established baselines.

CLAIBORNE: Crunching data going back to 1901, Payne figures the average manager, and by his calculation, that's the vast majority of managers, is responsible for between two losses and two wins each season, far fewer than a high-impact player, a Babe Ruth or Willie Mays, who were good for 11 or more wins a year at their peak.

Payne did find expectations. Bobby Cox of the Atlanta Braves, and Billy Martin who was hired and fired four times as Yankees manager.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Few managers could ever match his strategic brilliance.

CLAIBORNE: But the rest?

PAYNE: Most of the guys that manage more a thousand games are right around zero impact on average.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It hasn't happened...

CLAIBORNE: Yet it's the manager who gets the credit when his team wins.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Red Sox are world champions.

CLAIBORNE: And who takes the heat, and usually gets fired, when they lose.

So we ran it by former Major League manager Manny Acta, now an ESPN baseball analyst.

MANNY ACTA, ESPN ANALYST: It's not only managing inning by inning, it's what you do before and after the game.

CLAIBORNE: Acta says there are just too many things that managers do that just cannot be quantified.

ACTA: We are as good as the talent that is given to us. But there are so many things that happen through the course of the season that you just can't measure.

CLAIBORNE: do managers matter?

ACTA: Of course they do. I'm one of them, and I'm looking for a job.

CLAIBORNE: For This Week, Ron Claiborne, ABC News, New York.


STEPHANOPOULOS: And Keith Olbermann from ESPN joins us, thanks for coming.

What do you think of the theory?

KEITH OLBERMANN, ESPN ANALYST: It's nice that it's been empirically proved. I think it's been considered to the case that in a game a manager does almost nothing. A manager's responsibilities almost end when the first pitch is thrown.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about the new season. We saw just before the season begins, these new penalties put on for drug violations inside the major leagues. Pretty harsh. But you say something has been missed here.

OLBERMANN: Well, the key ingredient to it is that all those guys who were suspended last year in the Biogenesis scandal, Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun and the others, they all beat the system. And sort of covered up in the fact that the Biogenesis scandal resulted because there was an unhappy employee and the narcing out of 10 or 12 Major League Baseball players who were then suspended for 50 to 162 games is the fact that they all passed the tests.

So the problem is you can literally increase the -- the punishments for first-time offenders, second-time offenders twice what the Player's Association agreed to, and I don't know that you necessarily are increasing the disincentive to try, because, again, if nobody had told on Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez, they would have gotten away with juicing last year.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What are you most excited about this season?

OLBERMANN: The season. It's the one -- it's the -- this is one time of year, and it's such a cliche, that everybody is optimistic, reasonably optimistic. And even if they think their team is going to 30 and 132, there is still something symbolic even in the West, even in the warmer climates, even in the south, even in Florida there is something symbolic about the fact that the season is starting, which means all of us who were here have survived the winter, particularly in the northeast.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Spring maybe here.

OLBERMANN: Some value here.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And quickly, you know, I know you have spoken out about this, this is going to be the first season of the instant replay challenge. How do you think it's going to work out?

OLBERMANN: It's going to have a lot of bumps and it's going to have a lot of inconsistencies. But I think we're going to be able to deal with those a lot more easily than we are with things like completely blown calls with the 27th out of what would have been a perfect game if the umpire had gotten it right at first base.

There's got to be a lot of refinement, but the whole idea that we have not been using this technology when it's available, if a system could be used to these things quickly, has been ridiculous. And spring training showed they can get most of these things done in a minute and a half.

So why not? The average argument with a manager coming back -- you can go back to the point what is a manager do? He argues for the team thinks they've got somebody on their side. That will now be reduced. All that arguing time is now going to be devoted to actually getting the play call right.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You seem excited to do be doing baseball again. Miss politics at all?

OLBERMANN: Pol -- what was the word again? Thank you for bringing me in andremind me why I'm glad I'm back doing sports.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Look, it's great to have you back. Keith Olbermann, thanks very much.

And we'll and be right back..


STEPHANOPOULOS: And we end with some good news this morning. For the third week in a row, the military reported no service member deaths in Afghanistan.

That is 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.

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