tv Washington Week With Gwen Ifill PBS January 23, 2015 7:30pm-8:01pm PST
>> the state of the union, the state of congress, the state of the white house. and the state
of the 2016 presidential campaign. tonight on "washington week." rnings we need to set our sights higher than just making sure government doesn't screw things up. we need to do more than just do no harm. i know the republicans disagree with my approach. i could see that from their body language yesterday. gwen: but it was more than body language. it was a significantly different world view. >> all the president really offered last night was more taxes, more government more of the same approach that has failed the middle class for decades. gwen: what instead? we dive into a debate that extends far beyond washington
domestic policy to ri had and ha savannaha and jerusalem and tehran. >> new sanctions at this time are both unnecessary and far from enhancing the negotiations risk fatally undermining our diplomacy, making a deal less likely, and unraveling the sanctions that so many have worked so hard to put in place. gwen: we're back in iowa where a conservative summit is attracting nearly a full complement of republican presidential hopefuls. raising the question, who's not running? covering the week, our white house correspondent for real clear politics. ed o'keefe, congressional correspondent for "the washington post." michael frowly senior foreign affairs correspondent for politico and in iowa tonight john dickerson covering politics for slate and cbs news.
live from our nation's capital, this is "washington week" with gwen ifill. corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> it doesn't matter what kind of weapon. it doesn't matter what time of day or night. when mother nature has done her worst the only thing that matters to us is keeping the lights on for you. we're the men and women of the
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was this week an opportunity for an incumbent president nearing the end of his term to say, yes, i
still do matter. >> if you share the broad vision i outline tonight i ask you to join me in the work at hand. if you disagree with parts of it i hope you'll at least work with me where you do agree. gwen: but many republicans only heard the president talking about taxes and veto threats. they say the collaboration train has left the station. >> we need to fix our broken tax code, balance our budget, replace the broken healthcare law with solutions that lower costs and protect jobs. veto threats and fantasy land proposals from the white house will not distract the people's house from the people's priorities. gwen: fantasy land. surely the white house saw that coming. >> not only did they see it coming but in the speech itself, you can see, you know it threaded throughout all the
pages were these lovely lures to republicans that the middle class economic agenda the president was presenting was supposed to be a very stark contrast to what the president was arguing republicans are for. you could see that in the ingredients of the speech, itself which was let's raise taxes on the wealthy and let's try to spend some of that money, maybe $320 billion over 10 years on some of these middle class tax proposals or family benefits that i had in mind. you could see the president talking again about free community college, which was the rollout. we haven't had a speech, we had a month of the speech, right? so all of these ingredients in the speech whether it was raising taxes, trying to apply a fee to big banks, whether it was trying to help the middle class, all of this was to frame an argument very much for democratic -- the election going into 2016 but also for the arguments to come. and the president and the white house do not expect and the president framed the speech
this way, he does not expect a lot of buy-in on all of these proposals. >> so assuming that what part of what the president was doing was baiting the trap, did they get -- did they bite? the republicans on the hill? >> well, on maybe one or two things. but otherwise everything else is dead on arrival. in fact, a pretty interesting 60 minutes interview is airing this weekend where john boehner and mitch mcconnell are asked, what about the community college proposal? what about that tax cut? that would mean tax increases for the wealthy. no. child care? maybe. trade? mcconnell said definitely would like to work on that. so that gives you some sense of the game plan. look as far as republicans see it, they won the election. the president got a chance to have his night but as mcconnell said just a few hours before the speech, he doesn't control the agenda. we do. so they will continue moving legislation they believe not only has republican support but might get modest democratic support and then force the president to make decisions. do you approve or veto? so far he has issued six or
seven veto threats against what the republicans are working on. it's only week three. not necessarily a good sign. gwen: he issued two in the hours before he delivered the speech and the speech mentioned four others. you can see the interesting mix of confrontation and this supposed olive branch for collaboration. >> right. gwen: on the hill though it felt like part of what the republicans were doing was fighting the president and part of what they were doing was fighting each other. >> that's right. this was an unforced error like no other. this problem that they had, you know thursday was the 42nd anniversary of the roe vs. wade supreme court decision. as republicans when they control the chamber do every etry to pass something related to abortion. the plan this year was to pass a bill that would illegalize abortion after 20 weeks with exceptions for incest, life of the mother, and rape. in a slight change, a woman would have to report the rape to law enforcement before she could go and get the abortion if she decided to. that was seen as a bridge too
far for a little more than two dozen moderates. mostly women notably. and a lot of those women frankly on just about everything else are not moderate. >> you're talking republican moderate. >> republican women. 22 women now in the house republican conference and most of them said i can't support that. this is too far. we can't be discussing this in week three again when we were elected to do things about the economy, job creation, and finding ways to work with democrats. this is just something we can't accept. and so they pulled that bill and voted instead on something they'd done before which is to ban taxpayer funding for abortion. >> and this feeds right into the narrative that the president, you know, actually teed up in the speech which is if we can't agree on these things do we want to agree on the idea teen pregnancy and other issues are bad and this idea that, well, it's your time to govern. that stark contrast coming just a day after the speech. it's really astonishing. >> it was -- boehner had gone around the country recruiting
more main street or chamber of commerce like republicans. well it was those members who said to him and his leadership team this is not what i ca imto washington to do. a lot of them were then applauding him saying at least they listened to us. we'll go back to the drawing board on this. but i think they got the message. it's a sign that these types of political messaging bills no matter what they are, to make a point but not progress, their days could be numbered. >> what about the reaction among the many candidates for president in 2016 to the president's speech? did he create an opportunity for anyone including marco rubio for instance, rand paul, to stand out from the crowd in their response? >> well, a lot of them frankly are going to be doing that this weekend in iowa and in california. gwen: a lot of them aren't members of congress. >> look, i think to a person they don't see much to agree with with the president with a few exceptions.
maybe things like sentencing reform or criminal justice reform. some of this child care tax credit, some of those proposals certainly would be in theory at least something they would agree with. >> expanded to $3,000 per child. >> exactly. boehner himself said he realized this is something we could probably work on. beyond that, they don't really see any real opportunity to work with him. rubio and cruz to some extent have really been handed a gift in a sense with the president going out and -- >> the three people -- >> marco rubio and cruz, because they're cuban american he has sort of given them an issue by extending an olive branch to cuba and they have exploited that to some extent as well. but, you know, i think for now what will be interesting is how often do we see those guys go out on the campaign trail and how often are they going to stick in washington and come up with proposals to either counter the president or find ways to clearly demonstrate they're opposed to what he is
doing? >> if you step away from the laundry list stuff, it seems like the president was leaning into finally the legacy piece of his eight years, which is he started talking, he harked back to 2004 when he gave the speach to the democratic national convention about red states, blue states. he went back to his inauguration, happened to be the anniversary of his inauguration and his first inauguration and you wonder whether that is also what he's trying to do. that is speak to democrats, actually speak to his base. remember the days when we were all happy, when we got along so well? it felt like he was stirring that up again. >> it was striking because for a state of the union address it was a very personal kind of speech. it was very much, you know, all the things president obama wanted to argue he came to office to do. and he wasn't going to retreat from those things. he never mentioned the november mid-term elections which walloped democrats. as you say he came around to the end of that speech.
it was very personal and rhapsodic about what he was almost hitting head on one of the most prominent rebuicks of president obama that he did not change washington. washington has almost changed him in more ways you could argue. the legacy part of it, i covered several two-term presidents before and you usually get to the eighth year before they're talking about the bow that's supposed to go around their doctrine or issues or in this case the president argued and rightly so, he wanted to spend some time talking about his legacy on the economy, what the economy was doing and the markers that things are let's turn the page. >> i had some conversations with democrats this week who privately marveled at the fact that incoming equality was something that started with them. it started with sort of the elizabeth warren wing of the party and has been seized upon by the white house, by hillary clinton to some extent. getting back to your question about 2016 candidates, republicans are now talking about incoming equality as well. even if they lost the elections a lot of democrats at least on the hill believe they're winning the argument because
they have now forced both parties to concede that there's been economic growth, economic progress but that this now, the continued inequality is something that has to be dealt with and republicans have to answer for in two years if there hasn't been a solution. >> quick point on legacy. you heard the president reiterate his call to close the guantanamo bay prison camp. republicans have heard his arguments on this over and over again. to me it feels like something that really gnaws at him that he hasn't been able to do this and to your point a reminder to his pace people i'm trying, i don't like this. i just can't get it done on my own. >> it seemed like there were two things he teed up one is the board of security portion of the immigration reform discussion we keep having and the other is keystone oil pipeline. >> right. both of those, you know, heading for conclusions in the house and the senate. in the house it's -- this is, what's interesting here is this is an example of the kind of bill the new republicans want to vote on. and this proposal had been out there in the last congress. never really got a vote.
republicans now realized if we're going to do anything on immigration we have to do it our way which is border security first. very aggressive measure. homeland security department not thrilled about it. the administration not thrilled about it. the republicans will be able to say we're not doing it our way which is to start with border security. on the keystone bill they will get to some sense of its inclusion in the coming week. it'll be three full weeks now they have debated this bill but there were some concerns that perhaps republicans are shutting down the amendment process a little early so there is the possibility that this bill fixes a closer than anticipated vote and that sense of bipartisanship is almost lost. >> these are two of the things the president promised to veto, right? >> what is interesting about keystone is he has suggested if you send this to me i will veto this. in the senate, it's unlikely there are other votes right now to support an override of the president so we'll see. on immigration i want to mention we need funding for department of homeland security. >> right. >> we'll end up in a different kind of argument. >> okay. we'll be watching all of the arguments. it's what we do best. most of the state of the union was devoted to domestic policy
but it is fair to say the administration was forced to spend much if not more of its time this week on challenges abroad. whether it involved the looming iran sanctions bill that the president says would derail sensitive negotiations or the upheaval in yemen where a key middle east ally was tossed out of office or the death of another key ally, saudi arabia's king abdullah. each of these events plus israeli prime minister netanyahu's decision to address a joint session of congress just weeks before his own country's election day sucked the u.s. back into probably its most complicated foreign policy challenges. what would you say is at the top of the list of those challenges? >> wow. it's quite a list. i would say in the moment right now over this weekend it's the chaos in yemen where a government with whom we have partnered to fight al qaeda's deadliest branch now, al qaeda in the arabian peninsula aqap and to the insiders who do counterterrorism, they're based
in yemen, ties to the massacre at the charlie hebdo newspaper in paris as well as the christmas day 2009 underwear bomber and some other plots really scary group. we had been working with the yemeni government in a counterterror kind of partnership because this aqatp was trying to top the government so we had been working with the government against this common ally aqap. in fact president obama cited this as a counterterror success story when he gave his big national address about the campaign against isis in september. well, now that government has essentially been deposed by a rebel group that is not aqap. it gets complicated really fast. the main thing people need to know is turmoil now basically a power vacuum. it is not clear who is going to be running the government. although aqap is not going to take charge of the government, these al qaeda guys, they appear to be exploiting the chaos and these counterterror
operations we were running against them in conjunction with the government are essentially on pause at a moment when we are reminded about how dangerous al qaeda is. in the longer term it's the nuclear deal with iran. i think that is still the president's top foreign policy priority, to strike some kind of accommodation that prevents iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability without some kind of military conflict. >> you've got a new king in saudi arabia, mess up in yemen, a rebuilding government in egypt, a shaky government in iraq and elections coming in israel. is the administration -- have they been anticipating this kind of volatility and how are they adapting to it or preparing for the potential for even more volatility? >> yes. they were not anticipating it. the slogan in this administration a few years ago was that we were going to pivot to asia and we were going to -- the middle east was bogging us down consuming too much blood, treasure, and band width, and asia is the future, its growth. we have to figure out the rise
of the next great super power in china and really manage it. well, it just hasn't worked out that way. when you say how are they dealing with it, prioritizing, i mean, what do you do when your house, when fires are breaking out on three different floors of your house? you just grab a bucket and you dump water wherever you can to try to contain it. i really think it's not a criticism. it's just the reality of what they're dealing with. i think they're improvising. they're reactive, trying to put out fires one at a time. if there is a kind of grander, strategic idea here it is this idea of a deal with iran that could be the first step toward somewhat more normalized relationships with tehran. we have a long way to go. even if we do see a nuclear deal by this deadline that's coming up june 30. i think that's at best a 50/50 proposition. there are still a lot of other issues that have to be resolved before we're friends with iran like we were by the way before the islamic revolution there. but i think that that is the -- if there is a strategic idea here it's that we can change the strategic dynamic in the
region. by the way, i think saudi arabia after the death of the king will probably be status quo for now but what is interesting as a question is sort of who is coming next in the line of secession? that is a little murkier and a little more potential for trouble there. the main thing is the arab spring was a once in generation or longer geo political event. no one could have anticipated it. i think we have to be sympathetic to this administration as it tries to cope with the really chaotic -- >> we don't have a lot of time but i want to ask about the netanyahu issue, the gamesmanship from israel. is that what it is? >> yeah. some of it is gamesmanship and some is really we're seeing the partisanship in washington now infecting foreign policy. we have talked for years about divided government but we have divided foreign policy now in a way i don't think people have seen where the speaker of the republican house issues an invitation to a foreign leader to come and speak to congress and in effect lobby for legislation the president has vowed to veto.
the president says new sanctions on iran the republicans intend to pass will blow up the nuclear talks and increase the threat of a military confrontation. it's pretty dramatic stuff. the last thing, quickly, the fundamental relationship between the u.s. and israel you talk to people in both countries and they say it's still solid. the military-to- military security partnership is there. there is a lot of tension at the top though. >> now we have to take a little side trip because we're going to go to iowa which has already become ground zero for senators, governors, retired physicians, you name it, who want to cut their teeth on 2016 primary politics. some like senator rand paul challenged their likely opponents on twitter as with this cheeky post. jeb bush apparently gave mitt romney a third time's a charm bracelet at their meeting in utah today. others like wisconsin governor scott walker will be overtly taking part in the primary count for the first time at the iowa freedom summit where john dickerson finds himself tonight which raises the question, john, why are you there?
>> seems a little early, doesn't it, gwen? we got two years until the 2016 election. but you can't get started too early in iowa. the caucuses are a year away. and we have the iowa freedom summit as you mentioned and seven to 10 depending on what definition you use, republicans who are thinking about running for president, then a bunch of them who are not here. but what the iowa freedom summit is is a chance for some of the marquee names -- scott walker, governor of wisconsin, chris christie, governor of new jersey, rick perry, the former governor of texas -- to come, make their pitch to this very conservative group of republican voters and it's kind of the kick-off event of the caucus. that's the way the people i've been talking to all week have been referring to it. the other thing that's going on among all campaigns including the romney campaign, bush campaign, and when i say "campaign" what i mean is campaigns in waiting. campaigns in starting. they're trying to grab those
volunteers and organizers because there are so many people running that the good talent for this very important organizational event, the caucus in iowa, is much different than a normal election. it requires some organizational skills. they're fighting for those staffers and there are not enough to go around. >> what does it mean who's there and who's not at this stage? for instance we know scott walker is finally there. what we also notice, both jeb bush and mitt romney are not. at least not this weekend. >> well, i think what it means is that, you know, jeb bush and mitt romney, they have -- they're just doing things a little bit differently. first of all, they have the name i.d. the voters know them. obviously mitt romney has run twice before. jeb bush seems to be putting a lot of his effort into his fundraising operation trying to sort of scare everyone else out of the pool. and when i say everyone else i really mean mitt romney and chris christie. those are his two closest competitors in terms of the same pool of money.
and bush is launching a very aggressive fundraising operation. so he is focusing on that part. this isn't really his audience. i mean, particularly jeb bush whose ideas on immigration are much further to the left of this group, steve king, the congressman from iowa is very hard line against illegal immigration, undocumented workers. he will ask all the candidates who are showing up or potential candidates who are showing up what their positions are. and the interesting one in that case would be chris christie, who has two things. one he's considered kind of moderate by some of the people in this audience but he has a very close personal relationship with steve king. and it will be interesting to see how he comes out of this. why does showing up at this thing matter is that the activists who would leave the hall will leave with some impression of these candidates. scott walker had some work to do in terms of exciting people. if he does something to excite them in this event, then it starts to get passed around among these activists here in iowa. >> john, how much of the scrambling that you talk about just for campaign workers is going on for money as well and
going on far beyond iowa? >> that's right. in iowa the fight is not really for money. it's for these workers. i was talking to representatives from the various campaigns and i talked to the bush and the christie campaigns and got a list of people who are signed up and ready to go for the candidates. it turns out some of the people are on both lists. so it's not quite -- there are going to be some awkward conversations in iowa. so that gives you a sense of the scramble though for this talent. outside of iowa the fight is for the money. that happens in the big cities and with the big republican names who cannot only write checks themselves but have a network of people they can bundle together. so that's the bigger fight that's going on outside of iowa here. >> keeping track coast to coast all year long. you go so we don't have to. thank you. gwen: thanks everybody else as well. we have to go now but as always the conversation will continue online. that's on the washington week web caps extra which you can
find later tonight and all week long at pbs.org/washington week. among other things we'll talk about the white house digital strategy and why it has to do with green lip stick. you have to watch. keep up with developments with me and judy woodruff on the pbs "newshour" and we'll see you next week on "washington week." good night.
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