tv Washington Week PBS April 29, 2011 8:00pm-8:30pm PDT
gwen: a national security shakeup, new details about guantanamo, citizenship politics, and the fed shows a little leg. tonight on "washington week. >> leon panetta, the defense department, david petraeus at the c.i.a., ambassador crocker, and general john allen in afghanistan. gwen:a grand reshuffling. what does it tell us about our national priorities? guantanamo detainees -- how dangerous are they? and on the domestic front, a crazy political week. >> my name is barack obama. [cheers and applause] i was born in hawaii, the 50th state of the united states of america. gwen: donald trump rocks the boat and haley barbour gets out of it entirely.
and as americans worry about jobs and gas prices, federal reserve chairman ben bernanke goes before the cameras. >> there's not much that the federal reserve can do about gas prices. after all, the fed can't create more oil. gwen: covering the week, mark mazzetti of the new york "times", tom gjelten of npr, karen tumulty of "the washington post, and john harwood of cnbc and "the new york times. >> award-winning reporting and analysis, covering history as it happens. live from our nation's capital, this is "washington week with gwen ifill, produced in association with national journal.
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gwen: good evening. musical chairs for the president's national security team. now follow the bouncing ball. with robert gates leaving the defense department, c.i.a. chief leon panetta heads to the pentagon. while general david petraeus leaves afghanistan to take over in langley. lieutenant general john allen takes petraeus's place in afghanistan, and former ambassador to the iraq ryan crockers joins him there as the top u.s. diplomat. each man has a different career and a different relationship with the white house that can tell us much about how obama policy and about how wars themselves have changed. isn't that right, mark? >> yeah, there's a lot of familiar faces changing jobs. one way to look at it is that there is not going to be a significant change in the policy in the war on afghanistan agent. general petraeus will continue to do his job at c.i.a. and lenient will carry out the counterinsurgencyy policy though he's been somewhat of a skeptic of that poifments the bigger issue is there is a certain interchangeability between the pentagon an the c.i.a. these days. the c.i.a. is in the military
business, dropping bombs in pakistan and the military is fanned -- expanding its intelligence operations. gwen: does it make less distinction than in the past when the president says, for example, we're not going to put boots on the ground, it buzzn't matter because there are wing tips on the ground? >> that's right. they're trying to gather intelligence, so boots on the ground still means military although the c.i.a. has expanded its par amilitary force, the number of people who show up in places like libya, so many times it's kind of a distinction without a difference. >> the c.i.a. in this administration has been really a favored agency. i think your newspaper quoted the president once as saying the c.i.a. gets what it wants. will petraeus going to the
c.i.a., will that even more accentuate the importance of the c.i.a. within the administration? >> it's hard to same the c.i.a. loves to be at the center of things. always fearful of being marginalized and they liked leon panetta add -- as director because he had a very good relationship with the white house. pet rayious, though he is this rock-star general, has had a patricklely relationship with the white house. so it remains to be seen whether they will be closer to the center of the action or whether the white house will keep them a little bit more at arm's distance than panetta. it may be a different and maybe even colder relationship. >> speaking of that prickly relationship, we have had the unusual sick of the president's ambassador to china, john huntsman, coming back and potentially running against him. there had been some talk that david petraeus was a potential
presidential candidate. did that factor in? did they take seriously that presidential talk? >> i don't know if they ever took it seriously. he of course has ruled it out but there was concern about what to do with petraeus, what job to give him. i think the assumption was if he could have been chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, he would have liked that job but there was concern in the white house that maybe that puts you too close to the president and that wouldn't have worked out. there is this question with this guy who's been at the center of everything since 9/11, what do you do with him? i think this is a pretty good selection and keeps him at the center of things. >> before he -- panetta was chief of staff he was known as a budget director. what are the kills he brings to
the pentagon and is he going to be a budget cutter there? >> i think he's going to have to be. he had a very brief military service and he's been steeped in national security issues and obviously became more steeped in it running the c.i.a. but he really is a savvy politician. he knows how washington works, how this administration works, and he also has this budget background. i think these are the things that they see as essential that he brings to the job and it's good to be there is going to be a lot of bloodletting at the pentagon over the next several years. robert gates started it, but it's going to have to continue under panetta because everyone agrees that the budget is too big. this is one of the primary reasons they picked panetta. >> is it fair to say that we're no longer waging conventional wars when you loo at the leadership in this case? it feels as if as the shift has gone to diplomacy, we're not
going to see an invasion in afghanistan again? >> i think the obama administration has embraced the idea of secret warfare much more than predecessors. you see it in yemen and so some extent in libya with the shadow wars going on there. certainly in pakistan. it is a move away from the bush administration where you saw large combat farces -- forces, big, messy battles. i think the obama administration has tried to bile -- dial it back and to see what can be done, you know, nor the shadows. gwen: and as we saw in syria today, more diplomatic prer be. thank you, mark. gwen: as the u.s. role in the world shifts from overt militarily to discreet diplomatically to covert, relying more and more on intelligence, one has only to look to the detention center at guantanamo to gauge the fallout. new documents released this week to npr and other news organizations showed how complicated it has become to take, hold, and classify detainees, or as they used to be called, prisoners of war.
there is no longer anything conventional about any of this, is there, tom? >> that's right, gwen. these guantanamo detainees are prisoners of the war on terror, which is a very unconventional war, you're absolutely right. these guys constitute to the extent there is an enemy in this war, these guys constitute the enemy and what we got here were documents, detainee assessments of each of the roughly 800 men who have gone through guantanamo summarizing, the assessments summarized what they told interrogators, what other detainees said about them, what it was they were doing that got them to guantanamo in the first place, how they were captured. to -- so what we've got, guantanamo has been this sort of psychonic institution and now we have a much more individualized picture of these guys. 800 individual stories. they're not prisoners of war, in two senses. one, they were not captured as
soldiers wearing uniforms on a battlefield. they're sort of ordinary people in many cases. gwen: they weren't even necessarily captured by u.s. forces. >> most of them were not. you're absolutely right. and the second thing is even more important, they're not being held as we used to hold german prisoners of war, just hold them to keep them from going back. we held these guys to get information out of them and i think one of the learned -- things we learned from these detainee assessments was how much uncertain thri there was even among intelligence officials about who they were. these assessments, about a third of them were ranked likely to pose a threat if released, but many gat -- of them got released any buoy. >> tom, guantanamo as also become iconic as something that the president promised to do in the campaign but failed to do. he hasn't closed guantanamo and doesn't look like he's going to any time soon.
does anything in these documents aggravate that embarrassment for the president? >> one of the things these documents show, debateable, of force, is that harsh interrogation probably doesn't work because one thing we've found in reading them is in hindsight at least how wrong many of the assessments were. >> many of the detainees were themselves subjected to coercive interrogation or the detainees who testified against them were and we've found that a lot of the assessments were simply inaccurate. so in that sense it will provide data to support those who say this system was wrong. on the other hand, this administration like the previous administration is convinced that a good bunch of these guys are too dangerous to let go. they're p able to, for political reasons, bring them to the united states for political trial. so they're stuck with the guantanamo problem. >> speaking of bringing them to
trial, one of the surreal aspects of the way these documents wame -- came out is that they remain classified even though they're accessible to anyone who has access to a browser -- where does this leave the legal teams? because their lawyers are told they cannot use these documents in making the defense for for -- their clients. >> it's sort of reminiscent of the wiki leaks when the white house told federal employees they could not click on those cables to read the documents. it is this kind of paradoxical situation where anybody can go on line and read these documents, and there is a lot of sensitive information in there about the identity of people who gave information against these detainees and i think that some of the same concerns that we heard in the aftermath of the wiki leaks cables apply here. is it really a good identity to
reveal the identity of some of these informants? >> so even though we're just learning about these assessments now, the assessments are old and nothing will really change you think in terms of disposition of the prisoners or what happens going forward? gwen: what happened to this idea of moving them to a facility in the us us? >> well, that's now against the law or will be if legislation favored by the republicans vonses. there are only 172 left. about 47 of them are considered to be too difficult to prosecute but too dangerous to let go. 36 will be prosecuted. the rebe transferred so we're talking about an ever-smaller group but you're right, 95% of the detainees at guantanamo went there in 2002 and 2003 so these guys have been out of the fight already for eight years. gwen: thank. now we move on to perhaps the
most politically bizarre story of the week involved the release of a birth certificate that proved something already known to be true. the president, as they say in the u.k., was not amused. >> we're not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers. gwen: the carnival barker the president was clearly taking aim at is reality tv star and new york businessman donald trump, who even more bizarrely went on to use the f word at least three times during a speech in las vegas last night. no, we're not going to play that for you! so, many wanted to know, why did the president even dignify the birther buzz with a response? karen? >> well, you know, gwen, by all accounts this decision was an audible by the president himself. he essentially had finally reached the point about a week ago where he decided he had had enough of all of this, that these questions kept coming up as he was attempting to do, for instance, interviews about his approach to deficit reduction. so at that point he called in
the white house counsel, bob bauer and said ok, i put out the basic legal form that people in hawaii use to do things like get driver's licenses and passports and that wasn't saffing people so let's go through this whole rigamarole is takes to get the longer form of the birth certificate. it required sending, putting his personal attorney on an airplane abandon sending her to hawaii to pick up this document. but i think why, i think it's as much a reflection of the media culture that we are in. basically that donald trump was able to sit on television on morning shows and on cable shows nonstop and keep hammering at this issue. in the old days the shall, i mean gossip has been around. innuendo has been around as long as politics has but the old rule was that you ignored it, you tried to stay above it. that is clearly no longer something that works. >> inside the white house did they start thinking that this is hurricane gustav -- having
an effect that people are starting to believe this? that it was having a real political impact? >> it was. in fact the polls suggest that something like a quarter of all americans had reached the point where they believed the president was not born in this country despite the fact that there was never any evidence to the contrary. so clearly the polls were beginning, were affecting this decision. another thing that probably factored into it is alarm being raised by some republicans like karl rove that this was actually an argument that was beginning to bite against the people who were making it. it was looking so wacky that it was splashing over on all critics of the president. so there may have been a measure of political calculation in there as well that the president thought, you know what? it's not a totally bad thing for me to have, you know, these sort of wacky-looking conspiracy theorists having their day. >> but, karen, yeah, donald
trump sure does look wacky and what does this episode mean for the future -- future of the republican field? does this put in a sense more pressure on the republicans to look for some serious faces? the conventional wisdom on this field is that it's weak. are we going to see now john huntsman, mitch daniels? does their stock rise as a result of this view of the republican field as, you know, at least in trump's case, wacky? >> no one really knows because the other thing that has been going on within the republican party itself is, you have to go back probably a half century to find the presidential election process at this stage with such an unsettled republican field where no candidate really registering very much in the polls and -- gwen: like we saw haley barbour drop out. >> haley barbour dropped out.
he had been testing the waters in the very traditional sense and he said is he didn't feel the fire in his belly, which most people took to mean he didn't think there was much of a chance to win, but the field is very unsettled and someone like a donald trump who under normal circumstances where the party finds its candidate and begins the procession toward the core anition, donald trump couldn't have gotten the traction. but now people know his name, it's registering by the in the polls. >> there are some people outside the white house who have made the argument that the birther argument was simply a proxy for people going after the first african-american president, people were uncomfortable seeing him in the white house. if that's the case that could move on to other conspiracy theories. donald trump immediately started talking about his academic brack -- background
and how he got into harvard. >> exactly. gwen: they've always had a kind of tightrope they walk when the question of race is raised. >> approximately -- well, it is true, we have seen the circumstance come up in previous presidential campaigns where a candidate actually was born outside the united states and it was not made an issue. >> john mccain? >> john mccain. mitt romney's father who ran in 1968, he was born in mexico. so there is clearly i think the president's defenders say there is a racial element to this and there is also this same argument seems to underlie a lot of the criticism of the president. a lot of the for instance, the mention of american exceptionalism and the criticism that somehow obama doesn't believe this country is special enough. a lot of his allies will say this is just another way of saying that the president is different, that he's somehow un-american.
gwen: sand finally briefly, are haley barbour isn't in the race, he did with draufment does it have any effect on anybody else in the race? >> for all his limitations in terms of being a lobbyist was very beloved by the republican establishment and it does seem to open up space for somebody like a mitch daniels, somebody who would carry the establishment banner. gwen: ok. well, thank you for that. and finally tonight, we're going to move on to ben bernanke pulls back the curtain at the federal reserve, confessing to what he can do, can't do, and probably won't do to speed up the nation's sluggish economic recovery. it wasn't the most scintillating thing to happen in washington this week, but in its own way it may have been the most revealing. what was the sense of this? what is -- was the purpose of this in >> now, what do you mean not the most scintillating? gwen: i know, it was. >> it was our version of the royal wedding this week. gwen: without hots -- hats.
>> exactly. with no hats. 25 years ago bill grider wrote a book about the federal reserve called "secrets of the temple." that is completely antithetical to the drift of public affairs in the united states. it's a move toward greater transparency. a move toward opening up things that have been closed before. bernanke since he became the fed chairman had been interested in opening up and expanding transparency at the fed. the need to do that is all the greater in light of all the extraordinary interventions the fed had to take in the period of the financial chris and attempts to stabilize the markets and get economic growth going. in that sense he was working hand in glove with president obama who was also taking steps to intervene in the auto industry. like the president, ben bernanke felt the need to go justify why he was doing things that hadn't been done by the
fed in the past. and he had this very sober-sided press conference. there was no news made in terms of what he disclosed, but the mere fact that a fed chairman, where in the past you had people like allen greenspan and people were analyze how thick his briefcase was to try to decipher what he was going to do with monetary policy, here you had somebody taking questions and explaining. gwen: be careful what you ask for, right? >> well, yeah, but all indications are he is going to continue this and the market actually went up slightly when he was speabing. >> we used to watch greenspan's press conference ises organization or not press conferences but testimony on the hill and then the markets would fluctuate based on the smallest things. did the press conference have an impact? you say the markets went up a by.
do you see bernanke moving the markets more because of what he is saying? >> i think probably less. the more transparency you have, the less mystery around what a fed chairman says, the less jolt you are likely to have one way or the other based on what comes out of his mouth. bernanke has a very different style. yes, he's a former professor at princeton but he's pretty plain-spoken. even about arcain subjects he speaks in ways that the average american does not find intimidating. 60 minutes did a piece on him and i think this is an attempt by him to sort of unwind the mystery. >> the day after his press conference came news that the economy was growing at a slower pace than people expected. what kind of sense did we come away from in terms of what the real condition of the economy
is? >> he dressed -- addressed that saying the g.d.p. growth was 1%. he cast that as a transitory, short-term thing afemplet doctor affected by weather and other factors that might not persist very long but the fed has down grade its forecast for economic growth from close to 4 to close to 3. but he did talk about how the economy is on strong enough footing that as the fed fulfills both parts of its mandate, controlling inflation but also encouraging growth, it looks as if the bias has switched to watching inflation rather than stimulating growth. >> is there any policy news coming out of this in terms of what the administration or the fed intends to do? a lot of concern was about are we going to see for quaintitative easing, etc. >> it does not appear we will have nor quantitative easing. they didn't change rates. they said for the foe seeable
future they are going to keep rates close to zero. >> if you want to hear john explaining quaintitative easing, tune in to the "washington week" webcast extra and you will hear all about it. we have to end it here for now, but the conversation continues online where we'll talk more politics, more economy, and more foreign policy. that's at the "washington week" webcast extra. you can find us at pbs.org. keep up with daily developments on air and online at the pbs newshour. that's where you'll find that royal wedding video you were hoping to see here. and we'll see you next week on "washington week. good night. captioned by the national captioning institute --www.ncicap.org-- >> funding for wolfpack
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