NEW YORK, Dec. 22, 2013— -- Below is the rush transcript for "This Week on December 22, 2013
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning. And welcome to This Week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just because we can do something, doesn't mean we necessarily should.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: The NSA surveillance program hit hard this week by experts and the courts. Will the president respond by scrapping the collection of your phone records? Should he grant amnesty to Edward Snowden? This morning, both sides of that heated debate.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has this been the worst year of your presidency?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think has been your biggest (inaudible) today?
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STEPHANOPOULOS: After a tough year, how can Obama shake his second term slump? Will the least productive congress ever do better in 2014?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHIL ROBERTSON, DUCK DYNASTY: Gross sexual immorality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Should shocking words from Duck Dynasty's commander sink the super hit. The powerhouse roundtable takes is all on.
Plus, our New Year's predictions. Right here, this Sunday morning.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, This Week with George Stephanopoulos starts now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Hello, again. A whole lot to get to this Sunday morning before Christmas. And we begin with the latest on the biggest security breach in U.S. history. The surveillance program revealed by Edward Snowden under fire on two fronts this week. A federal judge signaling he'd strike it down. And the president's handpicked panel of experts saying the government should stop scooping up phone records of American citizens.
At that punishing year-end press conference, President Obama seemed to agree. And we're going to take on that debate with two key members of congress.
First, the backstory from ABC's chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross. Good morning, Brian.
BRIAN ROSS, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: George, the report by the president's handpicked panel was another devastating blow for the NSA and its most controversial program collecting the phone records of every American who owns a phone.
ROSS: The NSA says its collection of billions of phone records from American citizens has helped to stop terror attacks, a claim often repeated by the president himself.
OBAMA: As I've said, this program is an important toll in our effort to disrupt terrorist plots.
ROSS: But when the five members of the president's panel went to the White House to deliver its report this week, including former counterterrorism official and now ABC News consultant Richard Clarke, the 300 page document was a strong repudiation of what the NSA and the president have said, calling for the program to be shut down.
RICHARD CLARKE, ABC NEWS CONSULTANT: We think the so-called metadata telephony program has not been essential, has not contributed significantly, to the prevention of terrorist attacks in the United States or abroad.
ROSS: The report said while it found no evidence of actual abuse by the NSA, there is a lurking danger of abuse in a program that does not even make the country safer.
OBAMA: This is only going to work if the American people have confidence and trust.
ROSS: The White House panel's report came just days after a federal judge in Washington ruled that the phone collection record as unconstitutional.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, (D) VERMONT: The message to the NSA is now coming from every branch of government, from every corner of our nation, NSA, you've gone too far.
ROSS: The White House panel also dealt with the NSA eavesdropping on the United Nations and such friendly foreign leaders as German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying in the future it should require high level approval.
CLARKE: Now the current system did not have ongoing senior level review. Most of the time, there's absolutely no reason to engage in wiretapping of our friends.
ROSS: The review panel was formed in the wake of the revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and his supporters now say this week's report justifies his actions.
GLENN GREENWALD, JOURNALIST: It's a complete vindication of everything that he said is what caused him to come forward as a whistleblower.
ROSS: Panel members strongly disagreed with that.
CLARKE: What Mr. Snowden did was treason, was high crimes, and there is nothing in what we say that justifies what he did.
ROSS: Of the panel's 46 recommendations, the president has already rejected one of them, that a civilian, not someone from the military, should run the NSA.
ROSS: In his news conference at the end of the week, President Obama said he'll take the next few weeks to review his panel's ideas and then make some firm decisions about programs, many of which he once so championed -- George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK Brian, thanks.
Let's bring in the chairman of the House intelligence committee Mike Rogers. Mr. Chairman, thanks for joining us this morning.
You saw in that piece, and you saw in the president's press conference, he signals he may be ready to scrape the phone record collection program. If he does, how hard will you fight? And can you prevail?
ROGERS: Well, I just think perspective is important here, George. If you have -- if you think about where we are and what the panel did, which was dominated by law professors, they basically said the information is important, but where we keep it may be up for debate. So that's an important, I think a very important milestone for those who saw this as devastating to the NSA. I disagree.
Basically what they said was, this information is a vital part of our counterterrorism effort to keep Americans safe. We just don't think that they should collect it in a very safe place, in a vault if you will, with the NSA, we think we should spread it back across the phone companies and have the government mandate it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Can you go along with that?
ROGERS: Well, here is my concern -- and by the way privacy groups reject the notion that having the government mandate that the phone companies keep these records so that the government can access them is probably less safe than the configuration that we have.
But here's the good news about that, George, now we're going to debate about how we have access to information - not names, not phone -- not addresses, but numbers so when a terrorist overseas calls into the United States, we have some ability to figure out who that is. That is what the debate is now. I think that puts us on much better ground, much more solid ground.
They found no violations, no unlawful activity, no scandal, none of that was found in this report, but what they said maybe it shouldn't be with the government, maybe it should be mandated by the government that it's held by the private companies. And I think that's a very different debate and a debate that we should have. And it's probably a good one.
I'm reluctant, because I think it opens it up to more privacy violations when the companies hold it. They don't have somebody directly controlling that information. That not their job, their job is to provide service, that these are business records, not private records of content andso they're not listening to phone calls. I think in that regard, a very important step to actually debating on the same set of data points.
STEPHANOPOULOS: There's also the debate over the constitutionality. We saw that report from the federal judge, Richard Leon this week. He's an appointee of President George W. Bush. And he said it's almost certainly not constitutional. I want to read part of his opinion right here.
He said, "I cannot imagine a more indiscriminate and arbitrary invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying it and analyzing it without judicial approval. Surely such a program infringes on that degree of privacy that the founders enshrined in the fourth amendment."
ROGERS: Well, a couple of things, 16 federal judges, 36 different opinions all have had a different opinion that it is not. Remember, no names, no addresses, just numbers, and these are business records, not your personal records, that's very, very different, there's been hundreds of appellate decisions reaffirming the government's right to get business records in the course of terror investigations or in this case determining if a terrorist from overseas is calling into the United States.
So this is one case when you have a huge volume, again, perspective is important. Yes, this one district judge that doesn't handle national security cases had a difference of opinion, that is our good system. But it is -- he set aside his own decision, as he said likely to be overturned because of the sheer volume and body of federal judges who have already reviewed this, as late as last July, by the way -- or as early as last July, reaffirmed the fact that this program is legal, it does meet the constitutional test, does meet fourth amendment tests and should continue in the face of the threats to the United States.
I think that's important.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How about this question, about amnesty for Edward Snowden? The senior NSA analyst who is heading the Snowden task force, Rick Legett, we saw him on "60 Minutes" this week saying it should be considered. Take a look.
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RICK LEGETT, NSA ANALYST: So my personal view is, yes, it's worth having a conversation about. I would need assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured. And my bar for those assurances would be very high, it would be more than just an assertion on his part.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: You ready to engage in that conversation?
ROGERS: Listen, I do think he should come home -- I'd personally pay for his plane ticket -- and be held accountable for his actions.
Here's where I think he's crossed the line now, George, he has contacted a foreign country and said, I will sell you classified information for something of value. That's what we call a traitor in this country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're talking about his open letter to Brazil?
ROGERS: Absolutely. He has traded something of value for his own personal gain that jeopardizes the national security of the United States. We call that treason. And I think that letter -- I think very clearly lays out who this gentleman is and what his intentions were clearly. And so would I like him to come back? He should come back. He didn't use any of the whistleblower protection avenues laid out before him. None. Zero.
He went to the press. Then He went to the bastion of Internet freedom, China, and then Russia, to lay claim, claims that, by the way, this individual report dominated by law professors just said there was no scandal, no surveillance under the 215 program. All of the things that he's been saying I think been repudiated by this report. All of that I think we need to take into consideration.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, you've warned that the terror threat may be increasing again, al Qaeda on the rise again. And we know that they have targeted the Christmas season before. Do you have any more reason to be especially concerned right now? Is the threat level going up around this holiday season?
ROGERS: Well, I think -- and any national holiday that we would experience here, like Christmas, is something that we are concerned about. I don't think I see any other threat stream that I wouldn't say is out of the norm. But again -- and the reason we see that is because there are more affiliates, more al Qaeda affiliates from around the world, al Qaeda in the Magreb, al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula, you have al Shabaab now claiming some al Qaeda affiliate, al Sharia in Libya, all of these groups want to have and have the aspirations to commit acts of violence against westerners and the United States that's why this threat has grown.
And we have more chances to miss something and we have just less opportunity not to pay attention to every single clue we can find to make sure that we protect the citizens of the United States. And by the way, we can do that in a way that protects privacy and civil liberties. But you have to be arguing about the same sets of data points. And I would hope that this report stops this inflammatory language of surveillance and scandal and devastating. None of that this report I think concluded was true.
And some of the shortcomings of this report, real quick, George, they didn't talk to the FBI when it came to Section 215 for any length about the value of certain programs that they recommended against. And by the way, including 215, they never had a sit-down, long conversation with the Federal Bureau of Investigations who does these investigations. That is an unfortunate shortcoming in this report. And we'll be I think talking about that in the days ahead.
Some good things in this report. Some things that are concerning in this report. Recommendations of things that the government should do that they are already doing, and things that the government shouldn't do that they're not doing.
So I think this is not the holy grail of reports, but I do think it crossed a very important milestone in saying, hey, no scandal, no law-breaking, now let's just have an honest debate about where we think we ought to go in trying to stop terrorists from blowing up American citizens here in the United States.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Chairman, thank you for your time this morning. Have a good Christmas.
ROGERS: Thanks, George. Thank you. You as well.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's get a response now from Senator Mark Udall, senior Democrat of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senator, thank you for joining us this morning. You just heard Chairman Rogers right there, he says he's not ready to sign on to this idea of sending the phone records, having them stay with private phone companies rather than having the federal government collect them. Your response?
UDALL: The arguments for the status quo, George, fell apart this week in Washington. I do find it interesting that Chairman Rogers, whom I respect, (inaudible) my work, when the presidential panel agrees with his point of view, he says it's a great panel. When it doesn't agree, then he says, well, it's manned by three law professors, as if those law professors don't have an understanding of the constitutionality of what we've been doing.
I would point out that the panel was actually manned by people who are highly respected, who have deep experience in the role of intelligence and surveillance and national security.
I get up every day, George, as a member of the Intelligence Committee and Armed Services Committee, to do two things. Protect the American people and protect the Bill of Rights.
The NSA is overreached. We need to quickly move to adopt the 46 recommendations of the president's panel.
STEPHANOPOULOS: All 46?
UDALL: And Judge -- I think we need to look at all 46 -- I'm still studying the report myself. But there are many, many important reforms. It's time on to have real reform, not a veneer of reform. You know why? Because we have got to rebuild the American people's trust in our intelligence committee so we can be safe, so we can meet the threats that are all over the world. But we don't do that by bulk data collection that violates the privacy of Americans, that's unconstitutional, and has shown to not be effective.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you heard Chairman Rogers about the constitutionality as well, he says, what is it, 16 other judges have said that the program is constitutional, and have consistently approved it.
UDALL: It will wind its way through the courts. But it's hard for me to believe and it's hard for lots of Americans to believe with whom I talk that these general warrants, if you will, and orders to collect every day, tens of millions Americans' phone records, is somehow unconstitutional. It does not fit the standard in the Fourth Amendment of unreasonable search and seizure. You have to have probable cause -- by the way, these are innocent Americans, and I would counter Chairman Rogers' point. This is an invasion of privacy. If you take the business records of every American, of all of our phone calls, you can get a pretty good idea of what people are doing, based on when they call, who they call, from where they call.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Even though the panel has said that there's no abuse of this program.
UDALL: George, you're right. There has been no abuse. But the potential for abuse is always there, and Americans have always erred on the side of protecting our privacy.
The heart of our belief in freedom is the freedom to be left alone, and part of that freedom to be left alone is privacy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How about this question of amnesty for Edward Snowden?
UDALL: I think that Edward Snowden ought to come back to the United States. He ought to stand on his own two feet. He ought to make his case. History will judge him in a however way historians and the American people decide to make that call, but I'm focused on reforming in a fundamental set of ways the way in which the NSA operates. That's where our attention ought to be focused right now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, when you're saying he should come home, you think he should face charges?
UDALL: I do. I do. He broke his oath. He broke the law. Come home, make the case that somehow there was a higher purpose here, but Edward Snowden ought to come back to the United States.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think we would be having this debate if it weren't for his revelations?
UDALL: That's a conundrum. That's an important question. We have a lot of wilderness here in Colorado. I feel like Senator Wyden and I have been shouting from the wilderness for a number of years about the violations of Americans' privacy conducted by the NSA.
Finally, our point of view has been affirmed, and it's now time to really fundamentally reform the way in which the NSA operates. The president's panel made that very, very clear.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And one year from now, will the federal government still be collecting Americans' phone records?
UDALL: If I have anything to say about it, no. We've got to end the bulk collection. We can still use metadata concepts, George, but when we need those phone records, the NSA ought to go to the court, ought to get an order, then get those phone records. And by the way, I think those phone records ought to be held by a third party.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Udall, thank you very much for your time this morning. Have a good Christmas.
UDALL: Thanks, George, you too.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's take this to the roundtable now. We're joined by Bill Kristol, editor of the "Weekly Standard." Our ABC contributors Donna Brazile and Matthew Dowd. Steve Rattner, former counselor to the Treasury Department, and Greta Van Susteren of Fox News. Welcome to all of you.
Bill Kristol, we just heard that debate right there. Both senators agree that there should be no amnesty for Edward Snowden. But in some sense, has he been vindicated?
BILL KRISTOL, WEEKLY STANDARD: No. Because there's been no abuse, no illegality in my view under the Supreme Court precedents, (inaudible) Maryland. No criminality. And no -- I'm a defender of the NSA program. And I think everyone is being very glib about well, this metadata raises concerns. There's been just no evidence that anyone's privacy has actually been abused, and when you think about the program for a minute, and say how would it be abused? 22 intelligence officers, military, et cetera, are going to get together in a room, and decided let's go look at Donna Brazile's phone records? Or let's abuse -- it's the collection of metadata. You do need to go to a judge to get a warrant to really go down and see who Donna is talking to from (inaudible) or whatever. And so, I think a lot of this is people, we need to be serious about the national security side of this, obviously serious about the constitutional side of it as well, but I think it's an awful lot of glib talk about abuses of privacy without any evidence of abuses of privacy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're shaking your head, Greta.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS: I'm shaking my head because I think, Bill, you're dead wrong. Smith versus Maryland I think will be proven to be a wrong decision, much like Plessy vs. Ferguson was wrong.
STEPHANOPOULOS: This is the 1979 Supreme Court decision that did say that the government -- the police in this case could collect the phone records of one individual?
VAN SUSTEREN: That's right. And the Supreme Court has reversed itself before, Plessy vs Ferguson, Brown vs Board of Education. All you have to do is one thing. Go back to the Fourth Amendment. It's not an option. The Constitution is right when it says the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, in effect (ph) shall not be violated. If the government thinks this information is so important, it can get it. It just has to use a warrant. There's no fear exception. Because everyone's terrified about terrorism. There's no fear exception to the Constitution. If you don't like this, change the Constitution, but we don't want just a bunch of people in a back room doing--
KRISTOL: Police can cruise up and down streets looking for problems. If they want to go into a house, they have to get a warrant. This is the equivalent of police cars cruising up and down streets looking for problems. And guess what?
VAN SUSTEREN: This is bulk collection of American--
STEVEN RATTNER, CHAIR, WILLETT ADVISORS: Let me try this another way. I personally think this will be found to be legal. The commission found that it was legal. We can argue about Smith versus Maryland, but I'm not sure it's going to be overturned, but let me make a different distinction. You have a program that I think has been determined to be legal, but you clearly have a situation in which Americans are uncomfortable. They feel that their privacy is being violated. They feel that this is too intrusive. I think the president is going to draw an appropriate line, move this metadata out of the government's control, but somewhere else where it can still be accessed. Make some changes that give people more comfort, but (ph) maintain the program. And the important point about this commission part, it's more of a facelift than open-heart surgery. They're recommending some tweaks, but the fundamental right of the government to operate in this area is maintained.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Everyone seems so much more comfortable, and I wonder about this, with the records being kept in a private company rather than the government.
MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: That's a huge question I have, whether that's actually going to be a helpful thing or a hindrance thing.
You asked the question of, was Edward Snowden vindicated? I think he's been totally vindicated in this. In the history of the United States, there's always been a pendulum and a balance between national security and civil liberties. We swung way -- too much in the direction of national security, and the idea that we can gather all of this data -- and it's not just eavesdropping on a phone call. You can identify where somebody eats, who they sleep with, all that, without ever listening to a phone call, and the government can do that today.
I think what Edward Snowden did, and you asked an appropriate question to Senator Udall, is would we have ever had this debate at all? In my view, we weren't having it before and we are now having it today, so I think Edward Snowden was vindicated.
DONNA BRAZILE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: When it comes to national security, there has to be a middle ground between protecting the interests of the individual and making sure that we protect the nation at large. There has to be a middle ground between Edward Snowden and Dick Cheney. And I think President Obama is going to have to strike the right tone when he makes a definitive statement after all of these recommendations.
But I think most Americans are uncomfortable with the knowledge that they're learning now about all of the searches, the seizure of information, and they want some accountability.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But here's the dilemma, and let me bring it to Bill--
VAN SUSTEREN: But it's just that the Constitution is so plain on this. If you just read the plain language of the Fourth Amendment. There's just no way you can get around it. Either get a warrant, and you get all the information you want.
RATTNER: This has been litigated over and over and over.
VAN SUSTEREN: Apparently one judge disagrees with that.
RATTNER: Even this commission didn't find any evidence of illegality.
VAN SUSTEREN: So called law professors.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What do people expect when -- do they expect that this information should be private? You could argue that they have given up a lot of that privacy already to companies. But the question I want to bring to you, Bill Kristol, as you point out the panel said that there's been no abuse of this program. They also said that this surveillance program hasn't made that much of a difference in national security?
KRISTOL: Look, it's hard to judge from the outside. I'm worried as a policy matter, I think serious policymakers need to figure out, are we over -- are we depending too much on metadata? Are we shortchanging human intelligence, et cetera?
The president, the director of national intelligence, are presumably spending a lot of time worrying about that and trying to appropriately balance it.
I don't agree all of this stuff -- thank god forEdward Snowden, we wouldn't be having this debate. WE had a big debate in congress on this in 2006, 2007. In fact, we passed legislation in 2007.
We had a big debate about this. President Obama discussed this.
President Obama is a constitutional law professor, he came to office very concerned about the...
DOWD: Which is exceedingly disappointing...
KRISTOL: I'm sorry, then he became president of the United States. He got all of the briefings. He saw seriously what was going on and basically he decided, I think correctly, that you know what the balance is probably pretty appropriately struck.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But now he's...
KRISTOL: Now he's shifting because though -- entirely because of optics and because people...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Because of Edward Snowden...
BRAZIL: Because of Edward Snowden and the revelations...
KRISTOL: But not because of any actual revelation of any actual abuse. We know what real abuses are. We know what was done to Martin Luther King in the 60s. We know what the CIA abuses were like in the '70s. This is nothing like that.
BRAZILE: When you have heads of states complaining about their phone records, also, being looked at and pried upon.
Look, George, the states are already taking the lead across the country. California has now passed three laws to prevent online piracy. Montana has passed laws, Texas. The states will begin to -- enact laws that will ensure that our privacy rights are protected while the federal government sits around and figure out what the hell we are doing.
DOWD: And the government has never demonstrated that we're they're keeping is that what Edward Snowden did endangered the country. They've never said one piece of verifiable information that they put out that says actually that's true.
VAN SUSTEREN: But Senator Udall, I think was right saying have him come back and answer. He never went through the whistleblower -- there was a mechanism to be a whistleblower and he just bypassed it and did that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He's not getting amnesty.
We got to take a break. Much more roundtable ahead.
Will the congress turn the corner on a terrible year? What's ahead in 2014? And we tackle all of that uproar over "Duck Dynasty."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, COLBERT REPORT: Tonight, tonight we are all Phil Robertson. I'll tell you, who I feel sorry for, folks, A&E. With this controversy, they may have just lost Duck Dynasty's massive black and gay audience.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: You saw that press on Friday, was this the worst year of President Obama's presidency? We're going to talk about it in the roundtable in just a minute.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you (inaudible) talk to Americans they seem to have lost confidence in you, trust in you. Your credibility has taken a hit.
OBAMA: If I was interested in polling I wouldn't have run for president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But doesn't that undermine the public trust?
OBAMA: You're conflating, first of all, me, and Mr. Clapper.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's still on the job.
OBAMA: What I'm saying is this, that, yes, these are tough problems, that I'm glad to have the privilege of tackling.
I'm sure that I will have even better ideas after a couple of days of sleep and sun.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president thinking about his year in Hawaii right now.
And how about that press conference on Friday? The first question, was it the worst year of the Obama presidency? He didn't answer.
Does anybody here disagree with the idea that it was the worst?
DOWD: No. I mean, if you take a look at the data, if you take a look where he was at the start of the year, just think a year ago today, he was winning a 50 percent plus victory, first person since Eisenhower to win two terms over 50 percent. Everything seemed so great. And ever since the start of the start of the second administration it has gone down now.
He has gone from a net -- he's dropped a net 25 points in 12 months since January to today. Its his presidency, in my view, and the credibility of his presidency and the relevancy of his presidency is dramatically in question today. And I think he can't recover from it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He cannot recover?
DOWD: He cannot recover from it. No president has ever recovered from it at this point in their presidency.
BRAZILE: I think he can. He has three years to recover. I think he will have a rebound in 2014, especially if the economy continues to rebound.
Look, four out of the last five two-term presidents have experienced problems in their fifth term. So call it...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But he's got the lowest average polling of all of them...
DOWD: Of any president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, Richard Nixon, George W...
DOWD: And -- no, he's got a lower overall number than any president.
BRAZILE: OK, well, that -- I don't want to sound like I'm disputing your numbers today but I'll do it later.
But I believe if the rollout of the health care bill continues to bring in more people, if he can get the story right, if people are feeling good about the economy, this president will rebound.
Look he averted a war in Syria this year. I think the president has enormous strengths and he's resilient. He's been counted out before. He'll come back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And so much of the difficult year, Bill Kristol, is because of that health care, you know, the botched rollout. Peggy Noonan's word of the year and the fact that it's been slow in getting people to sign up.
KRISTOL: Some of think it's a botched law. And I would say, it's been politically the worst year of his presidency, but I actually think for the country the worst year of his presidency was 2010. And the worst day was March 23, 2010 when he signed the health care legislation and said on the very day he signed it -- I'd just like to remind people of this one more time -- I said this once or twice, but it bears repeating, if you liked your current insurance, you will keep your current insurance. Nobody is changing what you've got if you are happy with it. If you like your doctor, you'll be able to keep your doctor.
He said that on the day he signed the law. It was false.
Ad you know, the worst thing in politics -- you can get away with misleading people if the result is pretty good, you can get away with a bad result sometimes if people think you've been sincere and honest in trying to pursue a policy that you honestly felt was right. The combination of misleading and a bad result -- and the results are going to keep getting worse for the next few months, I think that's devastating.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Politifact called that the lie of the year. How do you explain how it was allowed to stand for so long?
RATTNER: Honestly, George, I can't. I've thought about it over and over again. I've asked friends of mine in the White House how this could happen because there were people who knew this. In fact there were people in the press and some actually pointed it out. And yet over and over again the president was allowed to go out there and say that. And I think that was really unfortunate.
But I do think without disagreeing with what we said earlier about this being the worst year of his presidency, I do think the day will come when people will look at the Affordable Care Act and say, this was a landmark piece of legislation, just the way they look at Medicare today. We're going to tinker with it; we're going to fix it. I think ultimately it's going to work. It's going to insured 25 million people who don't have insurance today. And we're going to look back and say, how could we not have not something for those people?
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is the big question isn't it Greta?
VAN SUSTEREN: It is but let me just say it to you, how could we keep saying that over and over again? Why do we keep saying the thing about the Benghazi and the tapes over and over again long after? I know why he keeps saying these different things. But the president's most powerful weapon as president has been his ability to inspire. That's his greatest strength.
And then he comes out last Friday on the press conference. He was depressing, he was like, you know, pathetic, he sucked the oxygen out of the room. The media beat up on his. The media had bad questions. They kept punching him. He ends the year where you just want to slit your throat almost because it was so depressing. And he's completing lost his ability to inspire.
And at 40% approval rate, I mean it's just, disapproval rate, it just shows how, shows how he has lost, you know, his ability to really--
BRAZILE: The people he's lost, the people who are now waiting for him to suit up so to speak. To face these challenges, they're the people who, they are hopeful that he will come back because they are depending on him to fight for them. Fight for--
VAN SUSTEREN: But he wasn't fighting even on Friday Donna. He came out at the end of the year and you thought really? This is someone who's coming out and selling himself?
DOWD: To me one of best lines which is so telling, is whenever a president, and it was almost word for word what George W. Busch used to say in year five and year six. When he said, if I paid attention to polling, I wouldn't have run for president.
Anytime a president says that, it means they're on the opposite side of polling where they stand in this country. To me, I know we've talked about Obamacare, I sit on a board of a charity hospital, I think there's some very good elements of Obamacare that are going to provide a lot of good things for the country. It's not fully about Obamacare.
To me what's going on in the country right now is one, they question the president's ability to manage anything, the government as a whole. And his competency to manage it and whether or not they trust him.
The other thing is we've seen a lot of good economic signs in this country. We have the GDP up, the stock market's at record highs--
STEPHANOPOULOS: Record highs.
DOWD: But the majority of the country does not feel any real impact. It's been over a generation since there's been any real increase in their financial situation. The president won't get credit until the majority of the country feels benefit.
RATTNER: Can I say two things about that? First of all, I don't disagree with your analysis of the polling. We can argue about the specific number later. But his 40 or 41% approval rating, Congress's approval rating, 13%. It's very hard to be an effective president when you have a dysfunctional, divided government up on Capitol Hill and you can't get business done.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that gets to the question, is there anything the president and congress could do, you know, to address the problem that Matthew just talked about. A lot of people who've been unemployed for an awful long time. Not getting out of long-term unemployment. And for most Americans, their incomes have been stagnant for generations.
RATTNER: There's a thousand things that Congress could do. Matthew's analysis of the problem is exactly right. That is the problem that people's incomes have not gone up. I don't think that's the president fault. He will get tagged for it.
There's a thousand things Congress could do. We could have a budget that actually made sense where we weren't cutting investment in education and R&D and infrastructure and all of the things that actually bring hope for a more productive economy and more income growth.
Instead we're doing these mini budget deals that are just sort of kicking the can further and further down the road. So there's a thousand things we could do.
KRISTOL: When I hear Steve say there are a thousand things Congress can do, I reach for my wallet. I think an increasing number of Americans do. I think it could be, this is a big debate that will go on about 2, 3, 4 years, maybe longer. Was Obamacare a landmark moment as Steve said? Where we all look back later on and say how could we not have done it earlier? Or is it a landmark moment where we say, you know, this was the experiment in big government, social engineering. It failed. It failed in execution, in failed in concept. And let's try and stop trying to have government--
BRAZILE: Forty-four thousand people lost their health insurance before the provider changed the policy prior to Obamacare. This has been going on in the individual marketplace for decades. What Obamacare is doing is stabilizing the marketplace.
KRISTOL: There are ways to fix, there are targeted ways to fix that and that's what Obamacare is about.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well we do have some evidence right now. It's inconclusive but as the president said on Friday, more than one million people have signed up for Obamacare. It's short of about the three million goal for--
KRISTOL: And how many of those are in Medicaid?
STEPHANOPOULOS: These are people that signed up on the exchanges. These are people who signed up on the exchanges. We do know that health care cost, the growth of health care cost, has been slowing. We do know that the deficit has been going down and we do now Greta that people who could get insurance before now can get insurance.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So there's arguments on either side here.
VAN SUSTEREN: Look, I'm for everyone having access to health care. But it's got to be a smart method to achieve health care. And when you have five million get dumped. If you destabilize so many American people that they're all worried. If you call for a doctor and you can't get an appointment for two or three months, whatever the reason is.
But just because we have a terrible situation, a health situation in our country where we definitely need reform, doesn't mean we should pursue a program that may not work. And I think the president, by allowing some people not to pay the mandate, his announcement the other day, I think was an admission that it really isn't working for everybody, that there are a lot of problems.
So look, I'm for everyone having access to health care. I'm not convinced and I don't think the numbers show it, that we're going to be able to support this. Because I don't think the young and health are going to come in droves and sign up. Maybe they will. I hope they do, but I'm not optimistic.
BRAZILE: That's the lesson in Massachusetts, they waited until the last minute to sign up and I think that will be the lesson--
STEPHANOPOULOS: The deadline to get insurance for this year is tomorrow. And I guess one of the big questions is Steve, as we go forward, are these people going to sign up over the next year or is the mandate going to continue to get chipped away?
RATTNER: Well I do worry a little bit about it simply because all this negative publicity has caused people to step back and say, I don't know what this means. I don't know what I should do. So I worry that the people who are opposed to the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, may make this into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I think the experience in Massachusetts that Donna just referred to, 98.5% of the people in Massachusetts now have health insurance. Can I just say one thing about what Bill said about this big government versus little government argument. I agree this is an important debate. We had eight years of little government under George W Bush.
KRISTOL: Oh it wasn't that little. It wasn't that little government.
RATTNER: He was your guy.
KRISTOL: I know.
RATTNER: He was your guy.
KRISTOL: I know.
RATTNER: He was your guy. We did not have a great economic result. It ended in the financial crisis, incomes went down, the deficit went up. I don't really see how that was a great way to govern this--
KRISTOL: This housing policy under George W. Bush was not limited government. It was the opposite and it lead to a terrible crash. I agree that both parties have failed in addressing long-term unemployment, in addressing the stagnation of long-term middle class income. It seems to me that the party that depends on a fresh agenda on that front will be in a great shape for 2016. I think the right agenda is not more government, but there are reforms that need to happen.
DOWD: But the party's agenda, I think this is where the Republicans have made the fault which goes back to this previous conversation. We've created a tremendous amount of wealth in this country in the last 20 years. But only for a very few people in this country. And we just talked about a generation of people, the middle class in this country, has seen no growth in income.
Until somebody, and I know Elizabeth Warren has, from a populist standing, I think the best message for a Republican would be limited government in Washington. They're not their doing their job, we don't trust them. And an attack on Wall Street. And basically saying we can't accumulate wealth on Wealth Street and think it helps the middle class.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Greta aren't Republicans ready to take on this inequality debate?
VAN SUSTEREN: Well I certainly hope so. Look 1965, we started the war on poverty and we failed drastically. So whatever we did to win this war on poverty has been an abject failure. I'd like to see someone come in; much like Reagan came in, and say why don't we just win the Cold War? Why don't we just win the War on Poverty? And why don't we come up with some new ideas because whatever we're doing is failing. And so we can't keep repeating what we're doing.
DOWD: I don't, one thing, the War on Poverty, for years the War on Poverty dropped. Today it's at its worst point every which I think goes to this problem, this income inequality. For years of the situation, 5, 6, 7 years, poverty dropped. And then it started rising back up to a completely free market, wealth created in Wall Street system and that's to me, a big part of the problem.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Got to take a quick break. When we come back, we're going to get into the Duck Dynasty debate, that's a shift. What this week's controversy tells us about today's culture wars. Plus our power roundtable weighs in on what to watch for in the year ahead. Their predictions are next.
STEPHANOPOULOS: There he is Phil Robertson, the commander of "Duck Dynasty" now suspended from cable's biggest reality it, after he insulted gays and questions the value of Civil Rights laws in "GQ" magazine. Turns out this was nothing new.
He said gays are full of "evil and murder" in this 2010 survey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHIL ROBERTSON, DUCK DYNASTY: Women with women, men with men, they committed indecent acts with one another and they received in themselves the due penalty for their perversions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: But after the suspension from A&E owned in part by ABC, Commander Phil's supporters struck back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNKNOWN), FOX NEWS: A&E they were absolute quacks on this one.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: What happened to freedom of religion, freedom of speech?
(UNKNOWN): Is this who we are? We're just going to be quiet? Because he has an opinion about the Scriptures?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Welcome back to the Culture Wars, welcome back to the Roundtable. Donna they're from Louisiana, your state--
STEPHANOPOULOS: And they have really become an empire which is why A&E even though they suspended them, are also going to keep Commander Phil and the shows that are coming out in January.
BRAZILE: Well there's still about 9 or 10 episodes. And yeah I've watched it, for the recipes of course. As a Louisianan, I know people who will say things aloud that more sophisticated people will keep to themselves.
He was wrong. What he said was insensitive. He's apologized. I don't know if anybody will accept this apology. He has a right to free speech. Sara Palin has a right to defend him. GLAD has a right to attack him. And the rest of us have the right to turn on other channels.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But is the right to free speech the right to have his reality show?
VAN SUSTEREN: I mean sure, A&E can do what it wants, but A&E has to be the quintessential hypocrite of the year because while they suspend him, they have five hours the other night. They have a marathon today. They're going to air it in January. So I'm a little bit surprised by A&E because they a little bit like, oh no, this is so horrible. They knew about this long before they even hired the guy. And he has free speech, but he's got very bad manners.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Should we have had surprised that this came out?
RATTNER: No probably not. Like a lot of these things, it was sort of hiding in plain sight. But I think it is not a free speech question. I think A&E has the right to do what it wants. I think many other networks have excused people who they thought were inappropriate whether it's Don Imus, Glen Buck in some ways--
VAN SUSTEREN: Don't point at me. What are you pointing at me for?
RATTNER: And just yesterday Barry Diller fired a PR guy for a tweet that he thought--
VAN SUSTEREN: Woman.
RATTNER: Woman, excuse me. That he thought was inappropriate. So I think this is not a free speech--
VAN SUSTEREN: Well it's free speech to him. He can say what he wants and (inaudible) can say what he wants because it's free, no, no, no, but he could say it, yes of course he could say it. A&E though is acting like; oh no this is so horrible when they knew about it a long time ago.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Bill Kristol--
VAN SUSTEREN: And they're pushing it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's not just A&E, Cracker Barrel I guess is pulling some of the "Duck Dynasty" goods off their shelves, Wal-Mart. But this has been a huge $400 million business.
KRISTOL: Yeah it's pretty impressive. Donna knows much more about it than I do. She has a close cultural connection to it from her Louisiana roots.
KRISTOL: But political correctness is out of hand. I think Steve mentioned Barry Diller fired a young women employee of his, or actually I take it did 10 minutes of reference and all this. She's a tolerant person out here in West LA. She sent some tweet getting on a plane and she's fired before the plane lanes. I mean that is insane. That really is sort of lynch mob, you know, on Twitter--
STEPHANOPOULOS: What the tweet was, I know what it is, but I don't want to repeat it. It was unbelievably offensive.
BRAZILE: It's insensitive. What he said was extremely ignorant. Ignorant use of the Bible. Ignorant of even discussing that blacks were happy--
STEPHANOPOULOS: Before the Civil Rights.
BRAZILE: Before the Civil Rights.
DOWD: To me this is a fascinating conversation. This is the number one reality show on television and it's not only the number one reality show on cable, it's like one of the number shows on television. Which is reflective I think and this whole conversation is reflected about the divide in this country which is Red America versus Blue America.
And if you look at the viewing patterns of this show and the reaction from both sides in this, both sides are looking across the street and saying, who are you? Who are you? And each side is doing this.
And this whole First Amendment right argument to me, if you want to talk about a hypocrite, to me Sarah Palin is a hypocrite. I didn't see her defending the Dixie Chicks. I didn't see her defending Martin Bashir.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why is everybody looking at me? (inaudible)
DOWD: And so I don't think it's a personal, each side uses the First Amendment like a club every time someone says something stupid.
VAN SUSTEREN: I think that's true is, I think that's true.
KRISTOL: I'm sorry the left is now specialized, let's have a mob attack on someone and call on people to be fired.
VAN SUSTEREN: (INAUDIBLE)
KRISTOL: That is more the left. There is some conservative political practice, but the left specializes in these kinds of things.
DOWD: These guys were hired because they're rednecks and they get suspended because they're rednecks. In the end that's what's going on.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And in the end they may not really be suspended after all. Let's look ahead to 2014 and let's start out with what's the story you're watching in 2014?
DOWD: I think it reverts back to this which is this unbelievable amount of middle class frustration and anger in this country. I think they feel they haven't been tended to in over a generation. They feel like a lot of wealth is created in this country and they have no part of it. They're sitting there trying to pay their bills. And they're doing it, and they're being accountable in their own life, and responsible in their own life, and they're not getting any help. Business or government is not helping them in this process and that anger is going to continue to grow.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And quickly, politician to watch?
DOWD: Jerry Brown actually. And I think Jerry Brown is set up, if he wants, much in the ilk of Mandela who was in his 70s when he got elected president and Pope Francis who didn't become pope until he was 76. Somebody that combines politics and spirituality.
BRAZILE: Wage stagnation. Productivity is up, wages as a percentage of inflation is stagnant. I'm watching that. Income and inequality and how the politicians deal with that. The long-term unemployed, what do we do with them. The politicians. I'm watching everyone but Hillary.
BRAZILE: Because on the Democratic side we have so many great leaders, so many people that we haven't talked about, I'm watching all of the rest.
KRISTOL: The Obama administration attempt to cut a deal with Iran will not work. I do not think the president will act to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. I think Israel will act and that will be a big moment in 2014.
On polit--on the political figure to watch, I actually wonder, everyone assumes Hillary Clinton's going to run for president. I wouldn't be that surprised if by the end of 2014, both Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton have taken themselves out of the president face for 2016. No more dynasties.
(UNKNOWN): Except maybe the "Duck Dynasty."
VAN SUSTEREN: Syria, I think that's the big question. I was in Iraq last week and al Qaeda is really building up among the rebel groups in Syria. So what are we going to do? Are we going to back the group that's going to try to kill us? The al Qaeda or the guy who's gassed his civilians. And I think Syria is a tinderbox.
As a person to watch, I think keep your eye on what's going on with Governor Susana Martinez because she was--
STEPHANOPOULOS: New Mexico.
VAN SUSTEREN: Because she was called by Christy to help him with the Hispanics in New Jersey. Republicans badly need a Hispanic. So I'd keep my eyes on her, assuming she does well as a governor.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK Steve Rattner?
RATTNER: As far as the most important issues, I certainly agree with Donna and with Matthew, but so let me throw out another one. I'm watching what's going on in New York City because we have a new mayor coming in. We talk a lot about the division, the Republican Party, between the Tea Party and the so-called Moderates.
In the Democratic Party we are facing a similar discussion between progressives and more centrists led by Bill Clinton. So Bill de Blasio will come in, he's brought a very vigorous progressive agenda and we're going to see if people get behind it.
As far as a person, Janet Yellen, she's a political appointment and I think she is the second most important person in Washington.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You got in right under the wire. We're out of times, thanks for a great roundtable. We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Our Sunday Spotlight signs today on two acting legends, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, both knighted by Queen Elizabeth for their contribution to the theater. They're starting now in two new shows on Broadway. And while American audiences may know them as enemies in the "X-Men" franchise, ABC's John Donvan found them the best of friends.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN DONVAN, ABC NEWS: It's the hats that through you off, these two guys on the right here. They're out of costume. But zoom in on this one, costume please, and yep that's Ian McKellen in "The Hobbit."
And now the other guy, zoom please, and costume, yep Patrick Stewart back when he was playing Jean-Luc Picard on "Star Trek: The Next Generation." And the other guy, well that's me. Truly in awe to be out on the street with these two guys.
This is so cool. Actually what's cool is what these two guys have been doing up on Twitter. Getting around New York City, here and here and even down here on the day the trash was put out. Or maybe it was the day after.
Just two Brit bros doing New York City.
PATRICK STEWART: It was Ian saw the trash bags and said, wait stop here! We literally stopped and held up traffic. Jumped out, took the (inaudible) on the trash bags and were back in the cars while people were thinking, those guys--
DONVAN: I know those guys.
IAN MCKELLEN: We are shameless self-publicists. What's nice on this occasion is that we are in charge of it ourselves. Not being imposed upon us. We're doing it because we want to do. And that's why we're doing these two plays.
DONVAN: Ah these two plays. That's the point because right now the two actors are in two Broadway shows together. Becket's "Waiting for Godot" and Pinter's "No Man's Land." And the snapshots? Well hack wise they're in character here, they're doing Deedee (ph) and Gogo (ph) the two characters in "Waiting for Godot." So it's a bit of a publicity stunt. But they're having fun doing it, this Broadway dream team who have been friends a long, long time.
MCKELLEN: Being friends with the people you work with is, I think pretty important. But we have shared experiences of working for the Royal Shakespeare Company for example, for the London National Theater.
DONVAN: At the same time.
MCKELLEN: Yes at the same time but never in the same play curiously.
DONVAN: Although back in the very start, in the 1960s, McKellen got big before Stewart got big.
STEWART: I was working in regional theater. He was with Olivia. He was in the West End. Somewhere that I could only fantasize about. And so I was fan to begin with. And I carry a little bit of that with me still. Only a little.
MCKELLEN: That's nice. Quite proper.
DONVAN: Of course they were both global stars and friends by the time they made "X-Men" together. And now that they're working night after night in New York, the other important thing they have in common is knowing how it feels to be working so hard at their age. 73 for Stewart and 74 for McKellen. In previews, they shared a dressing room.
What do you guys get up to in the dressing room? Do you--
STEWART: We both sleep a great deal.
STEWART: The bed is the most important piece of furniture.
DONVAN: And you really mean that don't you?
STEWART: Oh absolutely.
MCKELLEN: It's very nice not to be the only old man in the play. There are two of us.
STEWART: So true.
DONVAN: Well if they're hurting, it doesn't show. Two great pros, two great bros, two guys in hats on the sidewalks of New York. For "This Week" I'm John Donovan, ABC News, New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: And ours thanks to John for that. And now we honor our fellow Americans who serve and sacrifice.
This week the Pentagon released the names of six soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
And that is all for us today. That's for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News with David Muir" tonight and have a wonderful Christmas.