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tv   Washington Week With Gwen Ifill  PBS  May 16, 2015 1:30am-2:01am PDT

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gwen: upheaval everywhere. as a trade deal muscles its way through congress. a train accident revives the infrastructure debate. arab leaders come to camp david and jeb bush comes to grips with the legacy of iraq. tonight on "washington week." >> as we compete in the world economy, americans should not be patsies for other countries' cheating. >> we've got to be in the real world where we can trade with all these other countries. and receive all the benefits of those free trade agreements. the president happens to be right on this. gwen: labor unions corporations republicans and democrats square off. as the president attempts to nail down a legacy enhancing trade deal. a tragic train derailment revives another washington debate. >> we were just on the train. and all of a sudden it started to shake. gwen: could spending more on
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the nation's infrastructure save lives? >> the republicans have been very much against amtrak. for a very long time. >> are you really going to ask such a stupid question? gwen: at camp david, arab leaders ask the president is the u.s. committed to their security? >> let me underscore the united states keeps our commitments. gwen: but the prospect of a nuclear agreement with iran casts a shadow. on the 2016 campaign trail, jeb bush stumbles over the question, would he have gone to war in iraq? covering the week, manu raju senior congressional correspondent for politico. fawn johnson correspondent for national journal. peter baker, chief white house correspondent for "the new york times." and ed o'keefe political reporter for "the washington post." >> award-winning reporting and analysis. covering history as it happens. live from our nation's capital
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this is "washington week with gwen ifill." corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> how much money do you have in your pocket right now? >> i have $40. >> $21. >> could something that small make an impact on something as big as your retirement? >> i don't think so. >> well, if you start putting that money toward your retirement every week, and let it grow overtime, for 20, 30 years, that retirement challenge might not seem so big after all. >> additional corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by boeing. additional funding is provided by newman's own foundation. donating all profits from newman's own food products to charity. and nourishing the common good. the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public
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broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again, live from washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. normally debates about trade are kind of dry. easy to ignore. hard to understand. the last time one caught fire it took al gore debating ross perot on cnn. remember that? to capture the nation's attention. that was in 1993. this time, the fight over the prospect of a transpacific partnership has ignited debate that has democrats warring among themselves. among those leading the charge against the white house, oregon senator ron wyden. senator wyden: we can track trade agreements full of lofty goals and principles. you can amass all of the enforcement ideas you might want. but it doesn't do any good mr. president, if you don't have real enforcement tools.
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and you make sure that they aren't locked in a shed. gwen: but republicans mostly took the president's side. arguing that the deal is essential for economic security. so how do we get to this strange bedfellows moment manu? manu: it started after the republicans took back control of the state. the president has wanted the fax track authority for some time. but it was democrats when they controlled the senate that rejected that. harry reid when he was majority leader said he wasn't going to put it on the floor. so republicans came in here knowing that this is probably going to be the one real significant piece of bipartisan legislation that they could get through. because of the fact that republicans by and large support a free trade deal. they support this transpacific partnership and a fraction. democratic party supports pro trade deals. and the president is in that camp. the challenge for him, though is that overwhelmingly majority in congress from his party strongly oppose it.
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gwen: the republicans, i don't want to say that they may have seen this coming. but do they recognize the potential for a split in the democratic party that would make it look like they were getting things done and the democrats were not? manu: they certainly did. and it's been interesting to see this mitch mcconnell-brake obama in this -- barack obama in this as well. and he was praising obama lavishly over this for taking on his own party. and that's the one thing that the republicans have asked the president to do on this. to go after people like elizabeth warren and -- in order to give cover to the folks who are willing to break ranks and take on particularly the labor unions that are coming after this pretty hard. >> and going after iz beth warren and said she is absolutely wrong and the worst thing a politician can say about another politician and said she was just a politician. but what is her actual role in this? chairman of the committee or a specific role on this particular -- why is so so front and center? >> she just represents that ideological point of view on
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the left. she's really not the big player on the hill on this. rob wyden who youou just showed, gwen, clearly the big player on the democratic side. he's the ranking democrat on the finance committee. and he's in a challenging position trying to get this bill through. he actually supports that bill. but he also has tried to placate those folks like elizabeth warren on the left trying to fight this pretty hard. people like sherrod brown, also ohio democratic senator liberal populist, is aggressively fighting in as well. she really represents -- she has that ability to galvanize folks on the left. she's more of a message person on this issue. and on many issues. on theill. and she's using that pretty effectively to generate some of that opposition from the outside. >> and manu, i've been covering this and i've talked to democrats who are just passionately opposed to not only the transpacific partnership but t.p.a. in general and republicans who are passionately for it. do we know if this is a good deal for the cent or not? >> hard to say.
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it just depends on who you ask. given that the dividing lines are so -- pretty stark on this. and this is such a sweeping agreement. this is a 12-nation agreement. it affects 40% of the world's economy. it's going to affect virtually so much of -- of commerce across the globe. and in addition to that, we really don't know a lot of the contents of this. because of the criticism that it has been a secretive deal. members of congress can review this. but they have got to go to a classified setting. in the basement of the capitol. they can't take notes. or they can take notes but can't leave with their notes and can't talk about it publicly and we in the press can't see it so hard to judge it on the merits other than hearing the talking points on both sides. >> meanwhile, from her perch in brooklyn, is hillary clinton. who has been virtually silent on this and certainly noncommittal. he imagine there's a lot of frustration among the democrats who want this. and a lot of glee among the democrats that don't. that she so far at least has stayed out of it.
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>> she clearly wants this to be done with. i think that would be the one thing that hillary clinton wants. of course the president, her husband, has signed nafta in law and been a pro-trade democrat. gwen: when she was a secretary of state she thought this was a good idea. >> and has said we need to see what the agreement is before she can support it. and she's not weighed in on the issue before congress right now. which is that fast track authority, did she actually support the trade promotion authority? she has not said that explicitly. clearly this is an effort to cover herself on the left. given the fact that she is trying to reach out to that elizabeth warren wing of the party right now. and she doesn't want to come out for it because that would alienate those supporters she's trying to court. gwen: you got to hate when politics gets in the way of policy. it really does. all right. well there's nothing like a deadly and shocking accident to focus the mind on an issue that was otherwise gathering dust on capitol hill. what is the state of amtrak? can the publicly supported rail
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system be counted on to safely ferry the millions of travelers who get onboard each year? after a house committee approved a cut in amtrak funding on wnesday, the day after the crash democrats cried foul. >> last night we failed them. we failed to invest in their safety. we are divesting from america in this subcommittee. in t ss committee. and it doesn't make sense. and it defies the interests of the american people. gwen: but if amtrak's infrastructure is outdated, particularly in the busy northeast corridor, is there a fix? there may be. but house speaker john boehner said it's not about money. speaker boehner: the train was going twice the speed limit. adequate funds were there and no money has been cut from rail safety and the house passed a bill earlier this spring to re-authorize amtrak and authorize a lot of these programs. and it's hard for me to imagine that people take the bait on some of the nonsense that gets
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spewed around here. gwen: nonsense getting spewed again. >> i can't imagine it. gwen: i can't imagine it happening on capitol hill. where does the funding debate stand right now? >> well, it actually -- i find it kind of amusing that there was so much passion being spewed over $300 million. that's literally what the cut was. the subcommittee voted on the day after the accident. it is true though, if you see -- gwen: by washington standards. not -- >> not very much. i've been covering defense. they talk about billions. but if you can see the passion of steve israel in this particular case, you can see that democrats are very frustrated that they -- they tend to really like passenger rail. they particularly like amtrak. and it has been underfunded for a really long time. the thing -- the place to go forward from here, i think, is -- there's a couple different things that you can do. as the speaker noted, the house actually did pass an amtrak authorization bill. so this is not -- funding directly but it sets the cap. about a month ago. and one of the things it did
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was it said all of the money that is made in northeast corridor which is the only place in amtrak that's profitable, should stay there. for investment. there's a lot of places along the corridor that need a lot of help. anybody who rides it would probably be familiar with the bridge that goes over the hudson river into -- gwen: look out the window -- >> this is at that 100-year-old bridge. it would cost almost $1 billion to renovate it and to fix it and to upgrade it. so we're talking, you know, for the entire northeastern corridor probably $20 billion adjusted due to the shovel-ready projects. so this is why $300 million is really not that big of a deal. but there is this bill that passed bipartisan. there's -- it's moving in the senate. that's one thing that they could do to help the train system. but the problem of course is that even -- even that bill is a status quo bill. we're lking $1.4 billion for amtrak. and what they need is $20 billion or $30 billion. >> having traveled the country the last few months, and been delayed in planes, and on bad
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highways and -- >> right. >> trains and what not. this is part of a broader problem. >> absolutely. >> there has been no transportation infrastructure spending bill for at least five or six years now. why not? these are the most frequent travelers in the country. you would think they would want to find a way to fix airports, highways, bridges. railways. >> i have been asking the same question since i started covering transportation. part of the reason is that they don't have what they used to have back in the heyday. they don't have what they call earmarks. you're right. the last really long-term transportation bill that spent a lot of mone was in 2005. and that was the one with the infamous bridge to nowhere. and since then, we've had huge budget cuts obviously. and lawmakers can't direct money to their districts for individual projects. which means that -- gwen: used to be called pork barrel. and gone out of fashion. >> and keep in mind again, that odd thing about congress. it doesn't have to do with the transportation. everybody supports that. but every time you spend money on transportation, you have to
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take money somewhere else. and so even -- even now as we speak this is starting to -- even before this accident, starting to bubble up. just this week, we're going to see the house vote on -- on a transportation bill that's going to take -- take us through july. and they're going to work on a long-term bill. so it's getting there but taking a long time. >> republicans say you spend money on amtrak and they squander that money. gwen: yeah. >> is that a fair criticism? >> it is a fair criticism. one of the things that i was going back and researching this, that the o.i.g., the snedge found in f.y. 13 -- inspector general found in f.y. 13 that amtrak was not working with sound business practices and wouldn't get the best people to build whatever they needed and are funded to make up for their operating losses. but every year they come to congress, and ask for about one third more than they actually lose. and members of congress get a little irritated with that.
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>> is john boehner right, though? is this a stupid question in the sense of is this train crash connected to this broader debate? was it human error or should there have been these automatic speed controls that haven't yet been activated? >> and actually, the fact that those speed controls were not enacted makes it not a stupid question. because it takes a lot of money to get those things together. it also takes a lot of research. but the research and development is a place where sometimes they've been underfunded. gwen: expensive. we'll move on. the week started off with what seemed like a snub. when saudi king salman decided to skip a long-planned gulf cooperation meeting summit at camp david. six gulf leaders did appear and ned a lot to discuss. including the upheaval in yemen and the looming iran nuclear deal. was this merely hand holding up at camp david was there substance under way? >> gwen, you say that as if hand holding is a bad thing. and diplomacy, hand holding and particularly in the arab world
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hand holding is a storied tradition. and yes, it was about hand holding. it was about the president saying to our allies there, don't get nervous. just because we might be coming to a deal with iran doesn't mean we're abandoning our traditional friends who are very nervous about it. iran of course is a shiite-led country. these gulf states are primarily sunni led. they are at odds over many, many issues. and the nuclear deal just brings that tension to the table. so having himav -- bring them to his getaway, his presidential getaway, camp david was met if nothing else as a symbolic gesture of support. the tangible stuff is a little less so. he said we have an ironclad commitment to their defense. but he wasn't willing to give them an actual security guarantee the way we give japan or nato or anything like that. if you look at the actual document, it says if any gulf state gets into security trouble, then we'll definitely sit down and talk about what to do about it. which is a little less than we're riding to thehe rescue. and that's why some of these gulf states were a little
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disappointed in what they got. >> they came with a list of requests. didn't they? and the mere fact that this meeting was held, does it signal that they really believe they're ghoge to get a deal with iran? >> i do think they think there will be a deal with iran and the white house are feeling more optimistic lately than not. congress this week did pass the legislation allowing them to review the deal. but it doesn't seem to have knocked over the diplomatic possibilities. that could at one point have been a real obstacle in sitting down with tehran to finally work out in writing what they've agreed to in principle. it doesn't seem to have done that. so the administration is feeling somewhat optimistic that they can get to june 30 which is the deadline for the finalizing of the iran deal and make it happen. that's why the arab states are watching this quite carefully. >> to what extent do you think there will be a revolt from those gulf leaders assuming this deal is reached? >> i mean, they're trying to see what they can get out of it basically. but there is a real danger here. and the danger is you hear -- talk of saudi arabia getting
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into an enrichment race. you will allow iran to enrich this much with this many centrifuges and we will match that. not necessarily an arms race but it can become one and that's something obviously the administration and its western allies want to avoid. >> when the congress was debating their iran deal and there was a lot of questions about howw we are -- we can be assured that whatever agreement iran agrees to or decides that we can hold it to them and can verify it. and we are really concerned about it. are these the same kind of questions in a come from these other middle eastern countries? >> they do ask the same questions exactly. they don't trust iran. they have a lot of reasons not to trust iran. iran has cheated many times before. and that track record doesn't give faith to the reassurance this time will be different. the white house would say this is different. much like the trade deal. it's not nafta. we are building in assurances and building in enforcement mechanisms in effect. much like they're saying with t.p.a. that will make this a different beast. but as you say in washington, there's not a lot of trust.
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and frankly in the middle east region there's not a lot of trust. gwen: i wonder if we are not in a different negotiating position. because the u.s. is less dependent on middle eastern oil. on one hand that should mean that we have more leverage to not force the issue but get generally what the u.s. wants. on the other hand, a president is about to end his term with the perceived snub of coming from saudi arabia and other friends, i wonder if the u.s. isn't maybe in a disadvantage in these kinds of conversations now? >> well, we seem to have drifted apart from our old friends the saudis. and it's -- it's not just the snub issue. both sides say it wasn't a snub. gwen: right. >> but even if it wasn't intended as a snub it came across as a sign of divergence in our interests. and we do have energy independence increasingly now and we're no longer as dependent on them. and the optics as they say weren't good. the king of bahrain chose not to come in order to go to a horse show in the u.k. with the queen. that doesn't sound all that good.
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and the president when he sat down with the crown prince and the deputy crown prince from saudi arabia, who were -- sent in the king's stead made a mistake and named the wrong king who had first met with f.d.r. in an -- that opened the era of u.s. and saudi relations. you can see this disconnect on the superficial level and the substantive level. gwen: theoretically they're counting on the share interests from this. >> in the end that's the hope, yeah. gwen: well thank you, peter. the republican presidential field, already a crowded place. but it was an as yet unannounced candidate who dominated the storyline this week. it was not in the way jeb bush had intended. asked on monday whether knowing what he knows now he would have gone to war in iraq, this was his reply. >> i would have. and so would have hillary clinton just to remind everybody and so would have almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got. gwen: bush said he misunderstood the question. then he struggled with it some more. before settling on this response thursday. >> if we're all supposed to
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answer hype cret cal questions, knowing what we know now, what would you have done? i would have not engaged, i would not have gone into iraq. gwen: it's always the hypothetical that is get you or at least reveal how light you are or not on your political feet. as you spent the week with governor bush, how did this unfold? >> you know, i think part of the problem here was he's been asked this question over and over again since he began traveling the country earlier this year. the problem is he wasn't being asked that question on the fax news channel. which is a widely watched channel among republicans. megan kelly show, and one of their highest rated. the cameras were trained on him when he has been asked a question he's been asked so many times before and he stumbled and said he misunderstood it. knowing what you know now and knowing what you knew then and what -- what was most puzzling, it took him four days to sort it out. he could have done it tuesday. he could have done it wednesday. but it took him until thursday. and i think what you see is a man grappling with the desire
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to as he puts it campaign joyfully. which essentially means to campaign differently. to speak in nuance. to avoid looking at the past and talking more expansively about the future. and a desire to do that ran into the realities of today. which is not how it works. gwen: when did it become a bad thing for a conservative to say that going into war in iraq was a bad idea? >> it's happened over the last few years. you look at the polling. and roughly seven in 10 americans if not more feel that the war was a mistake. a majority of republicans feel that way as well. gwen: and even to his credit george w. bush has written as much. >> yeah. he doesn't entirely regret his decision. but he admits that mistakes were made. and that is the answer that jeb bush has given in the past. yes, mistakes were made. but the surge worked. my brother was politically courageous. seeing this opportunity, it was stunning to watch republicans essentially violate the 11th commandment which shays thou shall not speak he'll of another republican and overnight they did. some did almost minutes after the speech or after the interview.
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ted cruz. marco rubio, rand paul, john cassive who is also thinking about running, very clearly making it clear they would not have done it and putting distance between them and bush. why are they doing this? there is a growing concern or displeasure with the thought of a bush running against a clinton. all of these republicans eager to distinguish themselves and become the anti-bush candidate and saw a opening and tried to take it. >> you mentioned hillary clinton and so did actually jeb bush. >> right. >> this reminds you of 2000 when her ash 2008 when her vote for the iraq war and she tried to explain it away and is this an issue as she goes forward or is it in the past? >> her defenders has said she already answered to this and in her book last year and had it do it over time on the campaign trail in 2008. it was funny there was a call yesterday for reporters with democrats in arizona. because bush was in arizona. and they gave us their talking points on how awful this was and bush would be the third -- and jeb bush would be the third
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george bush term and what not. the only questions they got were about, well, what about hillary clinton? there would be silence on the phone as they tried to come up with an answer. and their basic answer is she has explained it. she apologized. this guy not only couldn't apologize it but is being advised by people who helped put that war together. if that doesn't bring you cause for concern, then what would? >> i was going to say, sorry ed, jeb, has not been on the ballot for years and questions about his viability as a candidate. can he handle the spotlight? how much concern is there in bush world and among the donor class that he may not be ready for prime time and this could actually have a lasting impact? >> donors and it comes as no surprise are skittish and when things are bad did they put the money in the right place and they've been expressing that concern this week. bush world sees this again as a temporary stumble. they point out rightfully that he has taken hundreds of questions from voters and from
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reporters since he started traveling the country in february. gwen: which is more than you can say for -- >> anyone else and especially mrs. clinton. that's the point he was making this week as well. there was an exchange with a college student who confronted him on iraq. and uncomfortable as that might have been for him, as much of a moment it created for television that's exactly the kind of exchange he wants to be having with voters. he relishes the opportunity to do that. and that's his plan. is to continue engaging. going to iowa this weekend. new hampshire next week. giving speeches. and engaging republicans across the country. >> better now than later. >> exactly. >> my question is this blew up so much does that suggest that jeb bush is the frontrunner? >> yes, i think to some extent. but it's also blown up because this is the kind of question he should have been prepared to answer. and he very clearly conveyed that he wasn't. whether or not his team was talking to him about it, and trying to prepare him for this, that's unclear. he's had this moment. we'll sehi whether or not it sticks. gwen: always better to have the moments early on. >> exactly. gwen: unless you keep having
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them over and over again. which could be a problem. thank you, everybody. we have to go now. but as always, the conversation will continue online. that's on the washington washington webcast extra. -- "washington week" webcast extra. which we will post online later tonight and at among other things we'll talk about the foreign policy debate break being out on the campaign trail. keep up with developments with me and judy woodruff on "the pbs newshour" and we'll see you here next week on "washington week." good night. >> corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> we're committed to strong. we're committed to sure. we're committed to smart and
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light, secure and bold. in a world of enduring needs, the men and women of boeing are proud to build and deliver critical capabilities for those who serve to protect our nation and its allies. and that's an enduring commitment. >> additional corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by prudential. additional funding is provided by newman's own foundation. donating all profits from newman's own food products to charity. and nourishing the common good. the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public broadcasting, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >>
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welcome to kqed "newsroom." i'm thuy vu. every week there are questions about the safety of the bay bridge. drivers want to know one thing. will the bridge withstand a major earthquake? we'll pose that question to the chief engineer for the bridge later in the show. but first we talk about the state budget. the state has taken in $6.7 billion in additional revenue since january. that may sound like a lot of money but governor jerry brown said that surplus is not as big as it might seem. >> is what we've


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