tv Washington Week With Gwen Ifill PBS August 12, 2016 7:30pm-8:01pm PDT
gwen: this week's challenge to distinguish between jokes, sarcasm and reality. and to figure out the value of unconventional vs. conventional politics. tonight on "washington week." >> if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. though the second amendment people, maybe there is. i don't know. >> i call president obama and hillary clinton the founders of isis. >> joke? sarcasm? or simply changing the subject? words matter, my friends. and if you are running to be president or you are president of the united states, words can have tremendous consequences. gwen: this was supposed to be the week where the candidates talked about the economy. and they did. >> i am proposing an
across-the-board income tax reduction especially for middle income americans. >> my mission in the white house will be to make our economy work for everyone not just those at the top. gwen: but somehow they always returned to their war of words. over trump's temperament. over clinton's e-mails. and even suspected russian hacking. >> let me just say this in terms of the presidential campaign. this is an electronic watergate. gwen: drama on every front. covering the week, molly balz, national political -- molly ball national political correspondent for the atlantic. dan balz chief correspondent for "the washington post." jackie calmes national correspondent for the "new york times." and michael scherer washington bureau chief for time magazine. >> award winning reporting and analysis, covering history as it happens. live from our nation's capital, this is "washington week with
once again, live from washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. since no one at this table has ever seen an election quite like this, i thought we'd try to divide tonight's analysis into two categories. the conventional and the unconventional. the conventional includes the latest polls. an nbc news/marist poll out this afternoon shows donald trump struggling in states he
needs to win. down by five points in florida. down by nine points in north carolina. down by 13 in virginia. down by 14 points in colorado. trump campaigned in three of the four states just this week. any number of polls now show clinton expanding her national lead. the results among many republicans have been panic which leads us to the unconventional. i asked senator susan collins this week why she decided to announce now she won't support him. >> regrettably, i have concluded that there is not going to be a new donald trump. that he's incapable of saying he's sorry, of changing ks of learning, of growing. gwen: there's more. 50 foreign policy experts signed a letter saying they would not support the nominee. another 07 gop activists and staffers signed another letter bemooning what they call trump's divisiveness,
recklessness, and incompetence. trump says his crowds tell another story and that voters will soon see the light on hillary clinton. >> she's got the temperament of a loser. i have the temperament of a winner and we have to win again. we have to win again. gwen: this is "time" magazine's cover this week. "meltdown." michael, is it just that it's august or is something else going on? >> something more than august. not a melt down like a nuclear reactor, melt down where it will never be rebuilt where it is contaminating everything around them but clearly a melt down. there is not a republican i've talked to this week that you can find who's not worried about what's happening. those numbers, double digit deficits in swing states is a big deal. donald trump in the last two and a half weeks has turned what should be a change election for him in which he says i'm going to change the country, a lot of people are unhappy, and make it better, into an election in which the status quo feels better, because he keeps saying things
that make people nervous. and before he can make his arguments, which are compelling, we know from before it's compelling, about trade, about manufacturing jobs, about globalism, hillary clinton's record. he has to be able to demonstrate he can handle the job as president. at the moment he still feels like he can campaign like he did in the primaries, which is to be throwing bombs, making jokes, saying outlandish things that have a viral effect in the media to get his message out. he's found over the last week it's really undercutting. gwen: let's talk about the conventional piece. dan, for instance it is not unconventional for a candidate to take advantage of resentment and people feeling like things have been taken from them. certainly that's what donald trump is doing. >> that's right. michael is absolutely right. there is an environment out there that argues for change. we're at the end of two terms of a democratic president. usually you get to that period.
it's difficult for that party to hold the white house a third consecutive time. we know there is a lot of unhappiness. we know that the recovery has been quite unequal in its distribution of benefits. we know there is resentment about the political system. all of that is out there for donald trump to make the argument. but he keeps making the campaign about himself rather than those other issues and the degree to which it becomes a referendum on donald trump he's put at a disadvantage. gwen: molly, it is not unusual for a candidate like hillary clinton did to get a post convention bounce and it's only obvious, we don't know what, how firm that -- how firm that bounce is, how enduring that bounce is. >> i think republicans as michael said are beginning to fear that it's more than a bounce. and that this is the new normal. because trump got a very small bounce out of his convention. it was immediately erased by the democratic convention. all he has done since then is
exacerbate the lines of -- think about the back-to-back convention messaging. the week before donald trump's convention there is a massive terrorist attack in france. there's been this drum beat of shootings and attacks both abroad and on our shores that plays into his message and his full message is look at how scary the world is. there's crime to be afraid of. there's terrorism to be afraid of. the following week hillary clinton comes on stage and says there's something even scarier than that. donald trump. and the way that trump has behaved ever since, his erratic pronouncements, his inability to back off any controversial statement, has only underscored her message in a way that i think perpetuates the impressions people took away from that democratic convention. gwen: does that message, jackie, also allow hillary clinton to make a run at some of these republicans who are nervous or as susan collins said she still isn't supporting hillary clinton but she just can't support him? >> well, definitely allows her to make a run at them and to, you see in terms of
conventional/unconventional, they both gave speeches this week on the economy. and, you know, he is giving this speech, trying to appeal to the working people. there was nothing in his speech. it was completely conventional by old republican standards. and he claimed that it helped the working class. she was able to come back in her speech and point out all he ways that it did not. by conserve tiff analysts at the tax foundation the top 5% would have a 1% increase in income after taxes under donald trump's plan and the middle class would be less than 1%. yet they both -- gwen: they said they were speaking to the middle class. >> right. and she doesn't seem to be moving -- she had to move left with the challenge from bernie sanders. she doesn't seem to be overtly moving toward the center in terms of her message. but it was interesting to me in her economic speech where she
was very strong in saying she is against the trans pacific partnership, which, you know, she is still trying to get beyond the suspicion that she is secretly for it. but she, at the same time, did not have -- she had a very pro trade message generally. she devoted a good amount of time to extoling the benefits of free trade. despite her, you know, the takeaway line is about anti t.t.p. so she is trying to stay appealing to her base, but she's got that. so now she's moving more to the independents. gwen: that's what's not happening on the republican side, which is moving beyond the base to the independents or to the other party. >> well, that's the thing donald trump has always said. that it doesn't matter if he divides republicans because he is going to more than make up for that by attracting disaffected democrats and independents and bringing new people into the electorate. gwen: keeps saying he'll get bernie sanders people. >> exactly. we saw this big group form this week for hillary.
no democrats for trump group has been formed. partly because the campaign isn't organized enough to put it together but also as jackie pointed out rhetorically he is not doing anything. rhetorically or in a policy sense. he has made gestures through this campaign of policies that would break out of some of the republican orthodoxy in a way that might actually be quite appealing to some of those disaffected democrats, but in terms of the policies he is rolling out he's not going there. as jackie pointed out, hillary now has the luxury of not having to move to the center. she can stay on the left in terms of policy and republicans are still flocking to her because they're so alarmed by trump. >> we spoke to him on tuesday for a cover story, and he said, yeah. people are telling me, i'm talking to lots people, listening to them, they're telling me to be nicer, to be calmer. and not to campaign like i did in the primaries. and then he sort of paused and said, but i liked how i was campaigning in the primaries more. so what's happening is he is sort of being betrayed by his own instincts.
his own instinct has always driven him. back in november when i spoke with him, he said my dad used to say i had a great feel for location. he was talking about real estate. but he said it's more than that. i knew immigration would be the issue. i knew terrorism would be the issue. he was really crediting all of his success to his gut instinct. and that gut instinct hasn't changed but the electorate he is trying to appeal to has changed. and he hasn't been able to internalize that yet. i know the republican party, reince priebus, the chairman, other people in his campaign have been trying. his children working on him, talking to him, trying to explain the reality of this race. i think it's likely that at some point in the next two weeks assuming these polls don't turn around by themselves he becomes more disciplined. the question is, is it too late? >> but if he becomes more disciplined he is not true to himself. >> when he read his economic speech it was to use his word
boring. he was just plowing through it reading off a teleprompter. it is not what people come to see. >> it ofedse him to be boring. >> right. >> it ofedse him to be boring. he likes to keep things stirred up. in part of the conversation this week about what he said about the second amendment people, no. this was about the isis, being the cofounder of isis. he was given several opportunities to walk that back and he wouldn't do it. and beyond that, he also said, look. the way you talk about it, nobody hears it. the way i talk about it, people hear about it and they talk about it more. gwen: then today he said one more time that he was just being sarcastic and then in the same speech said, well, maybe not that sarcastic. almost at war with those in front of you. >> he is there with reince priebus the head of the republican party who had to be just dying inside. it goes to the point of at what point we just have to stop, they have to just stop thinking
that he's going to change and that, you know, the republicans will say to me, well, there's one thing he wants more than anything. it's to win. if this is what it takes to win he'll change. gwen: let's talk about paul ryan, an example of a man who won by 70 points or something in his home district and last week we were talking about how donald trump is only grudgingly deciding -- last friday night he finally did. turns out paul ryan didn't need donald trump. a lot of candidates say they do better without donald trump. maybe that is the turning point we're waiting for. >> to the melt down metaphor, the nuclear melt down --. >> not yet. >> let's say it is though. a lot of republicans are wondering how far the contagion spreads and who it affects. you notice that even in that rally where he was endorsing paul ryan, paul ryan was not on stage with donald trump. neither was ron johnson the senator from wisconsin who was on the ballot this fall. when donald trump was in
pennsylvania this fall you didn't see senator pat toomey anywhere near there. you see a lot of these endorsers in name only who are saying well technically i'm going to vote for him but they're getting as far from him as possible both physically and the philosophical space, you see them denouncing a lot of his statements. because even though there is a lot of evidence voters in these states are willing to vote against trump but for a senate candidate they are going to need that ticket splitting to old up in an unprecedented way . >> there will be a moment and we're not quite there yet in which the republican party as a whole and all of the candidates have to decide do i run in a sense actively against trump? simply making the argument trump is going to lose. you have to protect the republican majorities in the house and senate. this happened in 1996 but very late in the campaign. it happened in late october. it could happen much earlier if trump doesn't signal and show that he is able to turn things around. gwen: isn't there a very
specific brand of trump success? trump specific success that candidates out there or other people could latch on to and get some benefit out of? that is the best people like mike pence were making, newt gingrich was making, chris christie was making though they're not on anybody's ballot. i think they're afraid of annoying or angering trump supporters. they're so loyal and not a majority of the electorate unfortunately for trump. a good chunk of the people that you need to win in any swing state if you are a republican candidate. so the fear is that if you begin to actively campaign against trump you anger those people and they then won't vote for you. >> right now there is just none of that glow trump is imparting to anybody else. in wisconsin where trump is well behind paul ryan falls about 50% in terms of favorability. rob portman, marco rubio in florida.
kelly ayotte in new hampshire all pulling ahead of donald trump right now in their states. there just hasn't been any evidence of that yet. that broadening. now, if, imagine an alternate universe where donald trump comes out of the convention incredibly disciplined and doesn't make jokes about the second amenityment people or invite russia to hack hillary clinton's servers. you could conceivably see that at this point what we would be talking about are hillary clinton's e-mails. we would be talking about economic frustration in this country. we would be talking about the debate over trade agreements and whether we've gone too far in terms of globalization. and in that scenario, there could be an identity for the republican party that they could gather around and move forward but we don't have anything like that. >> we did see a sign today in the state polls that have come out that we've been focusing on these very vulnerable republican senators. but senator richard burr who is not really on anybody's radar, republican senator from north carolina, down two points in a
poll in north carolina for the first time. this is a state where donald trump is behind nine points. it raises the question to people about the drag. gwen: today hillary clinton released her tax returns in part to goad him more into releasing his own. as we talk about an unconventional year i wonder whether that matters and resonates at all with people or whether something else has to happen for people to care about that really. >> i think trump has made a bet and it may not be a bad bet that those kinds of conventional things that presidential candidates are expected to do don't matter that much to the general public in an environment like this and that he can simply get through this campaign without having to do that. it's not clear if he loses this it is it is not clear because he didn't put out tax returns. there is a history of everybody doing it, an expectation of transparency we all put on
candidates but i don't know trump is necessarily wrong in concluding that this is not a fatal decision on his part. >> well, i think the other big bet he's making is it would be worse for him to put out his tax returns because it could very well -- jim stewart had the column in the "new york times" today about how likely it is he paid zero in federal taxes or even claimed a loss. gwen: what is the flip side for hillary clinton? what unconventional thing can she do to allow her to take advantage of some of that? >> never have a press conference. >> oh, that. we do see her running a very safe conventional campaign in terms of everything from strategy to policies, same old states on the map with maybe a couple additions. the same old proposals, you know, out sourcing bad, minimum wage good. and i think there was a worry on the part of democrats at some earlier juncture.
that she wouldn't be exciting enough and the way donald trump tends to suck up the air time might work to her detriment by not giving her a sort of elbow into the news cycle. i think democrats are less worried about that today because they see the effect all the coverage is having on donald trump. >> maybe more worried about the fact that their candidate and the candidate they're running against are both massively unpopular. >> again, i think less worried now than a few weeks ago just because of the way the polls seem to be turning. >> she's not a good candidate and never has been. but if the question is are we safe with her as president could she handle the job, being boring and bland, the clip you ran earlier saying i want an economy that works for everyone. it's never worked for everyone. it is the worst political cliche' you could offer. >> that's why we used it. >> so much of what she says is like that. it's the blandest, most broadly appealing pab lum they can come up with. and if she was running against a strong candidate that would
be a problem but if she is running against someone people are worried about being stable the person who sounds like every other politician you've ever heard and never really liked that much is maybe not a bad thing. >> another unconventional thing. you could not turn on the television in cleveland or philadelphia at the conventions or while watching the olympics and not see a hillary clinton ad. we have seen goose egg ads from donald trump. not a dime spent. is that part of the strategy or just that he doesn't want to spend the money? >> he clearly doesn't want to spend the money. got the money to spend. i think it's indifference. i think it is his belief he has found a different way to communicate with people and clearly during the primaries he was correct about that. he was able to dominate the conversation. able to get all of his points across. he was able to smother everybody else simply by using, you know, television and cable. >> he has one person attacking only him this time. >> you know, the question we can't answer at this point is,
are these polls moving because or baufs the sing things trump is doing to himself? i'm sure the clinton campaign will say the advertising is moving numbers. but that is an unanswerable question. >> a lot of interesting political science has been done looking at political advertising spending. it doesn't really matter what is in the ads as long as you're basically spending about the same amount on both sides. the only time advertising really has a dramatic effect in terms of moving numbers is when one side can spend much more. in an average race. i think there is a strong political science element. all those ads are being run and are about his character, qualifications, ability to handle the job as president, to say things that won't offend your children, they're speaking right to the competency issues. i think it just gets people thinking about that stuff in their head. imagine you're, during the
olympics you see that ad and then an ad about the clinton foundation or out sourcing of jobs to mexico, the stuff trump wants to talk about. the viewers' brains just wouldn't be focused on that topic. >> part of the issue is do those ads, it keeps a ceiling on him. and prevents him from getting voters he really needs. >> the numbers are really stunning. donald trump is out spent $52 million to zero in television ads. that is not counting the $30 million hillary clinton's allies are also spending on her behalf. that is a crazy number. donald trump put out a very confusing statement about his fundraising at the time of the fundraising deadline a couple weeks ago but we haven't seen the actual report that would tell us what he is spending that money on and where it is going. we've heard him throughout the primaries speculate about the
inefficacy of television ads saying they didn't hurt him in the primaries. >> he did say in the interview with "time" this week that he was going to start spending soon. i don't know whether it will be significant or substantial. gwen: he also said he'd definitely do all three debates, which we'll talk about soon in the webcast because we are out of time for now. thanks, everybody. we keep yaking about all of this online. that's the washington week webcast extra. if you're loving the olympics be sure to check out our piece on the athletes who used olympic gold as a spring board for politics of all things. find that at pbs.org/washington week. keep up with daily developments with me and judy woodruff over at the cbs newshour. we'll see you here next week on "washington week." good night. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
hello and welcome to kqed "newsroom." tonight, the trump factor in california politics. and the legislative countdown is on in sacramento. plus the struggle to find enough teachers as students get ready to head back to school. how two bay area middle school sisters won a global competition with an innovative app aimed at eliminating waste. first this week jurors in san francisco found utility giant pg & e guilty of six criminal charges for its role in a deadly explosion six years ago in san bruno. the jury found that pg & e obstructed the federal investigation into the explosion of one much its pipelines. the blast killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.