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tv   Washington Week With Gwen Ifill  PBS  October 2, 2015 7:30pm-8:01pm PDT

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>> a week of big surprises from the russians and the house speaker in waiting. plus another mass shooting prompts tough words from the president. i'm pete williams in for gwen ifill tonight on "washington week." >> this is a political choice that we make. to allow this to happen every few months in america. >> presidential outrage at yet another mass shooting, but what comes next? on capitol hill a government shutdown is headed off but not before a combative hearing over federal money for planned parenthood. >> this is about women's choice to me. this isn't about planned parenthood. it's about allowing women in this country to make their own decisions. >> if you want to be a private entity be a private entity but you don't need federal dollars to do this. >> the likely new house speaker comes under fire for suggesting the congressional benghazi
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investigation is politically motivated. >> everybody thought hillary clinton was unbeatable, right? but we put together a benghazi special committee. >> overseas the united states and europe are caught off guard by russia's intervention in syria. >> we are seeing the true intentions of vladimir putin to maintain a strong position in syria, his foothold in the middle east, and his propping up of bashar assad. >> decoding russia's motives and the obama-putin relationship. covering the week, the white house correspondent for real clear politics, susan davis, congressional reporter for npr, peter baker, chief white house correspondent for the "new york times", and the senior national security correspondent for the daily beast. >> 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? >> $40. >> 21 >> could something that small make an impact on something as big as your retirement? if you start putting that money toward your retirement every week and let it grow over time, 20, 30 years, that retirement challenge might not seem so big after all. >> 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 corporation for public broadcasting, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you.
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thank you. once again, live from washington, sitting in for gwen ifill this week, pete williams of nbc news. pete: good evening. it has become agonizingly familiar. a mass shooting in america. this time again on a school campus followed by presidential utrage over the issue of guns. this time it was roseberg, 26-year-old man opening fire in a community college building killing nine students and injuring nine others. the atf says he carried six guns with him and had seven more at home. just a few hours after thursday's shooting, as he has more than a dozen previous times during his presidency, mr. obama condemned the violence as forcefully called for stricter gun laws but acknowledged that politics are driving the debate. president obama: our thoughts and prayers are not enough. it's not enough.
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and, of course, what's also routine is that somebody somewhere will comment and say, obama politicized this issue. well, this is something we should politicize. it is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic. pete: that political debate was quickly joined by the candidates for president. >> this is a much deeper thing than some law we can pass. not every problem before america has a federal solution. i keep waiting for someone to tell me what new gun law can we pass that would have prevented this shooting or sandy hook or aurora or charleston. >> look, stuff happens. there's always a crisis. and the impulse is always to do something and it's not necessarily the right thing to do. pete: so the president was asked about that today in his news conference. what did he say about mr. bush's comments? >> he kicked it right out of the room. it was interesting because he had, for two days, including today at the news conference,
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talked about how it was a political issue and he wanted to politicize it. when the introduction was that jeb bush a candidate for president who wants to follow him had said some comments that indicated that this was a broader problem than, you know, just guns, the president said, i'm not going to deal with that. pete: but is there any reason to think that this time something will change, that it'll different? >> there is no suggestion either at the white house or on capitol hill that there is any appetite to revisit this as a legislative issue in the time that president obama has remaining in office. and the president, himself, has been pretty candid about where the opposition is. he puts the blame on the national rifle association. he's arguing that the money that goes into politicians' pockets for their races is the preventative measure that keeps legislation as it was blocked in 2013 and that it's not going to come up again successfully. in effect he is saying this is a project for the next president. >> he did offer some things earlier in his second term and
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failed as you said to get them through. so did anything come out of his latest statements to indicate they would have stopped some of these shootings as the republicans are talking about? does he have some specific ideas that would have applied in these particular cases, or is it a more generalized, let's see what we can do about guns? >> it is such an interesting question because sitting in the briefing room yesterday when the president came out, he was not dealing with the specifics even of what had been promoted in 2013 as part of the legislation that failed. he did not repeat or even get involved in the specifics even today in the news conference. what he says is, look. you know, we can't stop troubled people from having mental illness or feelings that they want to harm innocent people but he is saying they shouldn't be given -- have an arsenal to do that. now, he didn't even advocate any measures that would even come close to the idea that you have a limit on how many weapons you're allowed to purchase. he didn't offer any specifics about that. he didn't talk about that being a problem. and, in fact, what we've learned about the oregon
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massacre is that the guns purchased by that family, by the shooter's family, were legally obtained. so he has not addressed it specifically other than this feeling that guns are at the root of this. >> have guns and gun policy issues come into play before at all in the presidential election? >> there has been a lot of discussion on the republican side of the aisle about the second amendment and it's not necessarily that candidates are reacting to events as much as they are appealing to based republican conservative voters and criticizing either the administration or aligning themselves with the protection of second amendment constitutional rights to bear arms. and that's how it's come up appealing to the base. >> you mentioned that he gave this very passionate speech after this shooting and yet there aren't legislative measures and places to back them up. what comes next? is this something that goes to the states? what was the expectation of the -- or the hope that this speech he gave from the podium, where
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would it lead? >> president obama answered that question today by saying, no. he is just going to talk about this. so for the remaining 15 months of his presidency, he said, his weapon is to speak to the american people and try to use the politics or the, i guess the shaming or the responsibility, he's actually arguing that the american people are looking at polls, are supportive of measures that are gun safety or background check expansions, or assault weapons ban. he argues they are supportive of that and he wants to encourage them to say this is my responsibility. i should choose my future representatives, my members of the senate, the next president, based on as he called it, be a single issue voter. >> alexis, thank you. back here in washington the house speaker john boehner surprised everybody including his republican colleagues when he said that he'll step down at the end of the month. his departure helped assure that a bill passed to keep the federal government going for at least another few months, but the focus quickly shifted to his likely successor, kevin
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mccarthy, and it was a moment of accidental candor from the speaker in waiting that ignited a political firestorm. >> let me give you one example. everybody thought hillary clinton was unbeatable, right? but we put together a benghazi special committee. a select committee. what are her numbers today? her numbers are dropping. why? because she's untrustable. pete: the criticism was instantaneous and came from both parties and that prompted mccarthy to go back on television and backtrack. >> one of the things that you have to be very specific about is that none of your taxpayer dollars are used for any political purpose. and i think he clearly, gleefully claimed that this had a political purpose and had a political success. >> this committee was set up for one sole purpose. to find the truth on behalf of the families for four dead americans. now, i did not intend to imply
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in any way that that work is political. of course it is not. but a setback, yes. because i do not want to make that harm benghazi committee in any way because it's not political. pete: mccarthy says he'll be a different kind of speaker. how did he do on his try out? >> a little stumbling out of the gate. when mccarthy made the benghazi comments he said the one thing republicans have insisted from the beginning when they started this committee that it wasn't true, it wasn't about politics. now you have someone on point to be speaker of the house though not entirely certain yet saying this was politically aimed, this was in part to take down hillary clinton in her presidential race. it was a gift to the democrats. they immediately jumped on it as you said to say this committee should be disbanded and discreditted and it has created criticism for mccarthy from his own party. a republican from utah criticized him publicly. and today it's been reported that he is now considering getting into the speaker's race himself probably in part because of frustration over
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comments like the benghazi statement. >> so he didn't get a lot of help from his colleagues saying, no, you misunderstand. >> no. i think partly because what do they want from party leaders? clear messaging. people that can go on television and say what the republican message is and have a winning argument. not make very significant misstatements. >> you said poised to be next speaker but it is not definite as you mentioned. who else may run? is there a strong well of opposition to him? does he have a pretty good shot at this? >> he has a pretty good shot and is certainly the presumptive fambt. there are only two declared people in the race. if chambts gets in it would be the third. the problem with the speaker is it is a two-prong race. they have to win the republicans first and then the entire house. the speaker because it is a constitutional officer is elected by the entire chamber. right now that means he needs 218 votes if every member votes and right now he does not have that. no other republican does
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either. >> he couldn't count on all the republicans to vote in the big vote. >> yes. >> how damaging were these comments about benghazi in his campaign to become speaker? >> we'll have to see. the leadership elections are next thursday. it seems close but that is a long time in leadership races. these are the ultimate inside game. they don't campaign publicly. it's all done behind closed doors, member to member. what i think is going to be interesting is if chafetz does get in, if members endorse him and get behind him publicly it might suggest he has real trouble. >> one thing boehner's departure did do was keep the resolution going. it wasn't tied to planned parenthood. tell us about that and how likely that we'll go through something similar in december. >> it is fairly likely we'll have more budget confrontations this fall. i think republicans are trying to move the planned parenthood argument on to a separate track. they want to create a select committee similar to the benghazi committee to investigate planned parenthood to appease conservatives that
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still want to keep the issue up. they'll probably pass more legislation on abortion rights. they're going to look at other avenues, different budget bills to try and defund planned parenthood but try and keep that separate from the shutdown argument. >> susan, today at the white house the president was talking about the upcoming fights that he imagined there would still be in december but he also said talks are under way to try to reach longer-term budget agreements. what do you think that either democrats or republicans think the chances of that might be? he talked about leadership talks with the white house. you just mentioned the potential weakness of stumbling out of the gate if you're kevin mccarthy. so what's the lay of the land looking like for that? >> the likelihood of a budget bill is good in part because the senate majority leader mitch mcconnell who every time he goes up to a microphone says republicans aren't going to shut down the government and we're not going to default on our debt. he is saying they are willing to negotiate. they have reached out to the white house. there are back channel talks going on. mitch mcconnell is very motivated not to have these fights again because he thinks
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republicans in congress most important job is prove they can govern to help the eventual nominee win the presidency. >> and the president said he won't sign another c.r. >> the president wants to deal too. there is room to negotiate but as usual will probably happen at the 11th hour. pete: back to benghazi though how does this reposition hillary clinton when she goes up there to testify later this month? was she on the ropes before? now is she in a position of strength? >> i think she certainly is probably, it is going to be very known, made very known by clinton and the democrats on the committee those comments are going to be used again and again when she comes up here to testify. she is coming up later this month. i think, again, it was a gift to hillary clinton. she came out almost immediately and seized on the comments and said this is proof this is just a political witch hunt. >> on the other hand the republicans are not going to pull their punches because of this are they? >> no. republicans will say if not for this select committee we may not know about the e-mail server and e-mails so for a lot of lawmakers and supporters they are saying this committee really did find something substantive that other
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investigations had not found. >> all right. i'll be watching when she testifies. thank you. pete: president obama began this week by meeting with the russian leader vladimir putin at the united nations, a meeting that one obama insider called simply business-like. the focus was the civil war in syria but just 24 hours later russian planes ran bombing raids against what the russians said were isis targets. but there are to say the least conflicting reports on whether the bombs were actually aimed at opponents of the syrian president bashir al assad. president obama: a military solution alone, an attempt by russia and iran to prop up assad and try to pass fie -- pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire. and it won't work. and they will be there for a while. if they don't take a different course. pete: so it's been a week of questions on russia's
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involvement in syria and whether a military solution is the answer. but first peter was the president caught off guard by what the russians did? >> i think the russians have kept him off guard on the last several weeks for this for sure t's been two years since president obama met with vladimir putin in a formal session. you got to think this one didn't exactly encourage the idea of more of those conversations. as soon as they walk out the bombs are flying. you know, president putin and president obama don't see eye to eye on a lot of things and they're having this sort of long distance as well as close in debate over the right approach to syria. putin's point is, you guys undermine president assad and as a result terrorists like the islamic state or isis have gotten a foothold. it's your fault. of course president obama as we just heard said you can't bomb your way out of this anyway. and especially if you bomb the only people who could participate in an eventual political settlement that has to include some of the legitimate opposition. pete: nancy, how does this complicate the fight against isis?
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>> it is so fascinating how it started. three star russian general shows up at the embassy in baghdad and says we'll be starting our bombings imminently. they started an hour later. you should probably get your personnel a out of the country or off the grounds and get the flights suspended because we're here. just like that the entire tenor of the war changed. now you have russia at the table on eventual negotiation for the end of the war in syria. we're talking about russia now in a way we weren't just last week. op top of that the strikes they've done have been mostly targeting opponents of the asyrian president assad outside of isis. >> tell me how we know that. the russians said they were going to target isis. how do we know for sure they weren't? >> so i'll over simplify so forgive me. northern syria is primarily rebels not affiliated with isis. some of them you've heard about. al qaeda affiliates. western syria is largely regime controlled but not exclusively. northeast syria is largely isis
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controlled. then the far east portion of northeast -- northern syria is kurdish controlled. so these strikes were hundreds of miles away from those isis areas. >> not even close. >> that's right. in areas that were lost by the syrian regime in just the last few months, for example parts of hama which are part of the western area and so they just today started hitting isis areas and are they -- the question becomes were they token strikes? time will tell. >> you know, sitting in the state dining room today at the white house with the white house correspondents asking the president questions about syria, the president's opening answer was something like 20 minutes long. and the questions were, what do you think about no fly zones? are we the united states going to defend the rebels who are fighting assad? you know, what's the new -- what are the new elements we might be thinking about? the train and assist, trying to train the syrian rebels and the president said that hadn't gone so well. but we didn't actually --
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reporters all came away not getting a lot of answers about is the strategy staying in place or has something changed? what do you experts make of the president's remarks? where are we? >> i think the strategy is not changing. i think he made that somewhat clear by saying basically it is not for us to engage in this beyond what we're doing. he may change the tactics, right? he talked about bolstering the kurds more because they've had more success on the ground than the american trained rebels of whom we recently learned only five or six are actually in the fight. and so, you know, clearly they're talking about ways of shifting around the things they're doing. you're not going to see a wholesale change in strategy and you saw the president say very clearly he is not planning to cooperate with the russians in any kind of military intervention. that is a disaster in the making he said. >> what does russia want and specifically what does vladimir putin want? >> well, that's the question that sort of hovers over all of this. very simply, well, i guess not simply. actually it's a complicated sort of mosaic of factors isn't
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it? i guess the top reason if you will is that he wants us to be talking about russia, to consider the numbers to spot on the world stage, and the world military. at the same time he exposed the weakness of the u.s. hold on the region. so there was that dual purpose. at the same time there is a sense that he really fears a syria that falls into isis hands, that he believes a bashir al assad is a more stablizing force than the opposition on the table. militarily he has a lot to gain, too. there is an air field that the syrians use and a naval base off of the syrian coast and that's their strongest military hold in the region. so all of the factors come into play. and, frankly, it was some would argue an opportunity for him to take advantage of a u.s. strategy that seemed to be not as committed to the war in syria. >> i would add one more thing. i think all those things are exactly right. in some ways he is not just defending bashir al assad's government. he is defending his own
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government. because in his view if you can simply come into a country and topple the government because it happens to be auto caratic and treat its people badly, that is precedent he doesn't like because he's seen it in his own neighborhood in georgia, in ukraine, and he ears it desperately in moscow. for him this is stating a principle. you may not like it but guys like assad and me in moscow are better than the chaos that you the west have created here. >> libya was another --. >> speaking of possible chaos what are the chances with both russian and american planes over syria that they will end up banging into each other and will have a super power conflict or proxy war? >> well, it is the effort by both countries to figure out how to not run into each other in the air. and so we started to hear talks between the two countries about that.
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the challenge becomes how much can you trust the russians to hold to their agreements and how frank of a conversation can you have? now, practically speaking, because the u.s. and the russians as of now are flying in two different spaces, the risk is less but certainly not eliminated. and so in the immediate, it doesn't seem to be a real risk. >> on the other hand we haven't done exactly a lot of military rehearsing and training with the russians have we? they are not a nato country. >> not recently. the biggest challenge i think for the russians is what happens if for example a car bomb goes off in front of the air field or one of those planes are shot down? how do they extract themselves from the situation? in terms of running into each other remember the united states has basically said it doesn't have an interest in turning this into a proxy war when it was offered the chance for example to defend some of its moderate rebels as they called them on the ground the
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u.s. said, we're not going to take that risk. we're not going to risk elevating this into something bigger. >> peter, we've talked about how inconvenient this is for the u.s. but what is the risk for putin here? >> a lot of risk. in fact, some people in washington think what he's done sown his own bad oats in effect and this will come back to bite him in a very big way. russia has a sizable muslim population, and as president putin noted to the u.n. this week when he spoke there about 2,000 russian citizens have gone to syria to fight in that war. he is afraid of them coming home. u know, he's put a target on the back of the russian government from radical islamists who might want to take revenge against them. we've seen over the years bombings in the moscow subway and so forth. i think that he's entered a fray where he may find he's created an issue he wouldn't
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particularly like. >> one last question i have. what is iraq's role in this? we've heard at the u.n. about intelligence sharing and you were talking about the heads up. what is iraq's role? obviously we're so invested in iraq and the government there. >> the difference between iraq and syria for the united states is the united states feels it has a ground force in the government that it can put the nation's hands into once isis is defeated in the case of the iraq prime minister who the u.s. has great faith in won't be a sectarian. in addition 3,000 u.s. troops are working aggressively to try to train the iraqi army to defend space. so it is interesting iraq was used in the runup as sort of a message to the united states that for all your efforts, all those troops and strikes we have a presence now too in the form of intelligence officers who are sharing information. >> let me just briefly ask you a quick answer here. what else came out of the meeting in new york with the two presidents? >> they were supposed to
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actually talk about the ukraine. what the americans wanted to make clear was we're not giving up on ukraine. we're not allowing the russians to simply put that on the back shelf while they di kiss tract attention in syria. so that came out. the problem is syria has distracted from ukraine and left that situation sort of up in the air. >> all right. peter, thank you. nancy, thank you. thank you all. that'll have to wrap it up for tonight but the conversation goes on. it continues on the washington week webcast extra. we'll talk about rather pointed words the president offered on the difference between being president and the presidential candidates. note to hillary clinton, he meant you. that post later tonight and all week long at pbs.org/washington week. i'm pete williams. gwen is back around the table again next week on "washington week." good night.
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kqed newsroom. i'm thuy vu. tonight's show focuses on two issues in san francisco the subject of fierce debate here and across the nation. later, scott shafer will have more on whether local law enforcement agencies should cooperate with federal immigration officials but first we're going to take a look at one of the most contentious issues on the city's november ballot. proposition f takes aim at air b and b and other short-term services at 75 nights per year for each home or apartment and also require hosts to give the city quarterly reports on how many nights their properties had been rented. and it would allow people to sue neir

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