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tv   Washington Week  PBS  June 17, 2011 8:00pm-8:30pm PDT

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gwen: the republicans face off. plus fact checking the candidates. and peering behind the budget curtain. tonight on "washington week." >> anyone of the people on this stage would be a better president than president obama. >> we're going to win. make no mistake about it. i want to announce today, president obama is a one-term president. >> has he done one thing right when it comes to the economy in this country? >> that's a tough question. gwen: agreed. republicans want to beat president obama. unclear, who gets to do it. some at least are taking aim at mitt romney. >> he was involved in developing it and laid the groundwork for obamacare and continues to this day to defend it. gwen: what's true and what's not? tonight, we give you just the facts. and we explain why a deficit-cutting budget deal may
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be closer than it seems. >> failing to raise the debt ceiling in a timely way would be self-defeating. gwen: plus we connect the dots at the pentagon. from the budget to libya to nato. covering the week, dan balz of "the washington post." james barnes of "national journal." michael duffy of "time" magazine. and nancy youssef of mcclatchy newspapers. >> 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." corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> we know why we're here. >> to give our war fighters every advantage. >> to deliver technologies that anticipate the future today. >> and help protect america everywhere.
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from the battle space to cyber space. >> around the globe the people of boeing are working together. to give our best for america's best. >> that's why we're here. >> corporate funding is also provided by prudential financial. additional funding for "washington week" is provided by the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public 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. the 2012 presidential campaign finally began to look like one this week, complete with web videos, minor gaffes and full-fledged candidates debate. it ended pretty much the way it began with mitt romney looking like the man to beat but it also became clear he has even
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more reasons to look over his shoulder. so where does romney the frontrunner, dan, stand tonight? >> as you say, gwen, there's no more talk about a slow starting republican race for the nomination. gwen: mostly because we've been talking about it like -- >> we've talked about it for so long. but it happening. it's real. and informs a week that proved -- and this was a week that proved it. if you're mitt romney or romney's advisors you get to the end of this week feeling pretty good. he had a good debate in large part because his rivals didn't go after him. he had some awkward moments after the debate in the couple of days afterward, a couple of things he said including i'm unemployed to a group of people. gwen: it was a joke. a little awkward. >> a little awkward. nonetheless he ended the week where he began it but a little more clarity that he is the clear frontrunner or at least the frontrunner. on the other hand if you're romney's rivals you come out of this week and say yes, eggs the front run -- he is the
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frontrunner. but he has real vulnerabilities that he's going to have to deal with and they will get dealt with before this nomination battle ends. and second, that compared to past frontrunners for a republican nomination, he is nowhere near as strong as others have been. gwen: his competitors don't know how to go after him. we saw that with tim pawlenty at the debate and even seen it with michelle bachmann who i thought -- saw interviewed and asked whether she thought was what mitt romney did in massachusetts was a bad idea with health care she wouldn't say it. >> two problems. generally, it is early to go after the frontrunner if you are a relatively newish candidate. this is a time when party activists are beginning to pay attention. most voters are paying very little attention. and to the extent they are, the candidates want to make a good first impression. and you don't make a good first impression if the first thing out of your mouth is to attack somebody else. so that's part of the problem. specifically with tim pawlenty, i think he had a problem this week.
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because he had foreshadowed an attack at the debate over health care, using the term -- sunday morning show on fox of obamneycare which suggested he would use the debate to make a fight over that issue when given the opportunity and given several opportunities to do it, he backed away. and they now believe and recognize that was a mistake. and so later this week, he did go after him. >> the other person who got a lot of oxygen this week coming out of the debate was michelle bachmann, the congresswoman from minnesota. tem us what you make of that phenomenon -- tell us what you make of that phenomenon and is that good for romney? possibly? >> well, let me take the first part first, mi chl bachmann has been steadily moving -- michelle bachman has been steadily moving toward a candidacy. she has been in the shadow of sarah palin but as sarah palin has been on the sideline michelle bachmann has come forward and what we saw at the debate on monday nightn new hampshire were the attributes of somebody who could become a factor and a force in this
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campaign. there are still people who question whether she can go the entire distance. but she showed in that debate she has personality, she has some manning tism. -- magnetism. she has a personal touch with people. and all of those -- and obviously appeal to the tea party. now, for romney, this is very good news because she's going to be a force in iowa. and iowa is the place that tim pawlenty has to win if he wants to become the alternative to mitt romney. >> dan, we saw lot of candidates on that stage and yet more names. i remember hearing about gotch huntsman, -- governor huntsman, can we see more candidates coming forward? >> governor huntsman, former governor of utah, will announce at the statue of liberty, reaganesque and he will go to new hampshire. and that tells you most of what you need to know about the campaign. he would like people to think of him in kind of reaganesque ways. he is staking his claim in new
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hampshire. he's going to skip iowa. the problem for governor huntsman in addition to the fact that he's not well-known and just came out of serving the president that he would like to unseat -- gwen: as ambassador to china. >> as bam bass dorr to china, that he occupies or seeks to occupy the space that mitt romney already occupies. and that is going to be a difficult confrontation that we're going to see unfold. >> dan, what about texas governor rick perry? he has now said that he's going to take a second look at maybe jumping into the race. what do you think his prospects would be and do you think he's going to actually jump in? >> i don't know whether he's going to jump in. he's clearly shifted from where he had been. which was adamantly against running. never would think about it, wouldn't do it. he's now thinking about it. his wife is encouraging him to think about it. i still don't know that he will get in. although there are people in texas who think it's almost inevitable. but some of the people closest to him when i last talked to them said it's basically a 50-50 deal.
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if he got in, he would appeal to the tea party people, he has a strong sort of push everything back to the states, diminish washington, and he could be a force. gwen: let's go on because in politics, it often takes a minute to figure out whether what you've heard is true, kind of true or just not so. and i don't mean what dan just said. tonight, we launch a new feature to help with that. throughout the campaign, we'll bring you "just the facts." from the debates, from the white house, and from the campaign trail. jim barnes kicks it off for us tonight by casting his eye on the new hampshire republican debate. starting with michelle bachmann who had a breakthrough night in manchester. among her claims, that the president's health care plan will hurt the economy. >> the c.b.o., the congressional budget office has said that obamacare will kill 800,000 jobs. what could the president be thinking by passing a bill like this knowing full well it will
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kill 800,000 jobs? gwen: ok. there seems to be two things there, jim. she said there are 800,000 jobs which will be killed. and she said the president knew full well that that would happen. are they true? >> not really. the c.b.o. report that she cited did not say 800,000 jobs will be killed. what it did say is that the work force is going to go down by about one half percent primarily through workers who are choosing to reduce their labor. so think of someone near retirement age who's basically hanging on to their job to stay in -- to keep their company-provided health care program. under the obama health care plan, they can qualify for tax subsidies that will then allow them to go purchase their own health care in exchanges. or they can enroll early into demade. so those may not be attractive
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options for everybody. how did we get the 800,000 number? basically you take 153.7 million people who are currently employed in the united states, reduce it by half of 1% and get about 770,000 jobs. but it didn't -- but to say that obamacare is going to throw 800,000 -- or imply that obamacare is going to throw 800,000 people who want to keep their jobs out of work just really isn't true. gwen: it ignores nuance. and this idea that the president knew full well. >> well, there's a little problem with that as dan's colleague, glen kesler, at the "washington post" helpfully pointed out. president obama signed health care reform in march of 2010. this c.b.o. report came out in august of 2010. so whether you can accuse the president -- it doesn't sound like you can accuse him of
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premeditated we're going to strangle and wring 800,000 jobs. and yes, there's uncertainty around health care. but really when you think about it, to try to project the impact of -- this really complex piece of legislation, over 10 years of the economy, that's really risky business. gwen: makes for a great applause line but doesn't necessarily square with the exact facts as we know them. let's take another look what the field's leader, mitt romney, had to say about the economy. >> what this president has done has slowed the economy. he didn't create the recession. but he made it worse. and longer. and now we have more chronic long-term unemployment than this country has ever seen before. gwen: let's unpack that. did the president make the recession worse and longer? >> well, the problem is according to the economists, the recession ended in june of 2009. now, that doesn't mean that people who are still losing
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their jobs aren't hurting a great deal and there's an awful lot of pain. but we know that the economy pivots a lot faster into a recovery than employment picks up. unemployment has increased since president obama has been president, from 7.8% when he took the oath of office to about 9.1% today. but at the same time, that nonpartisan congressional budget office just came out with a report recently that said that the stimulus package and what the administration has done has probably increased employment by anywhere between .6% to about 1.8%. gwen: one more we want to look at because apparently something in the debate about the economy that lends itself to oversimplification at best and inaccuracy at worst. this was tim pawlenty on monday night. >> and this idea that we can't have 5% growth in america is
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hogwash. it's a defeatist attitude. if china can have 5% growth and brazil can have 5% growth, then the united states of america can have 5% growth. gwen: 5% growth. china and brazil, do they have 5% growth? >> brazil, for instance, over the last 20 years, has averaged about 3.2% growth. at times, yes. but not currently. and here's the problem with that. the u.s. has averaged about 3% annual growth since world war go. it's bounced around -- tends to bounce around between 2% and 4%. yes, we've had some big periods of growth increases. right after the 1982 recession, the reagan tax cuts went into effect. and these are tax cuts that pawlenty likens to his own that he's proposing. but there's one big difference. back in the 1980's, the federal reserve board you will recall really tightened up -- really raised interest rates to wring
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inflation out of the economy. when the fed cut those rates, that was like a spring uncoiling. and that really boosted the economy. and we're in a very different situation right now. the fed has no room to cut interest rates. they're rock bottom, if anything, they're going to be increasing them. gwen: i hope that it helped a little bit. we'll try it keep doing it throughout the rest of the campaign. holding their feet to the fire a little bit. while the presidential candidates were sorting all of this out the painful business of governing by negotiation, actual governing, it was under way in washington. >> what we're about in this house is trying to exhibit real leadership. and what the president, i think, needs to understand is economic growth is not a government program. >> the end goal is not to simply reduce the deficit and cut the debt to g.d.p. ratio because those are worthy goals in and of themselves. the goal is to strengthen our economy. gwen: now, that's what was being said in front of the blue curtain or the little whuse
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logo. -- white house logo. but guess what? things might be moving. >> i'll say something people say a lot in washington. this was a really interesting week. in the complex world of debt reduction talks. and even though we don't really know what's going on behind the scenes in these three meetings that took place on capitol hill this week between democrats and republicans to try to cut $2 trillion, maybe more, out of the budget over the next 10 years, what was going on outside those meetings was like ice breaking. ice cracking for the first time. and let's just quickly go through them. really for the first time in 25 years the american association of retired persons, a group no one at this table is even eligible for membership for, announced -- gwen: suck it up. it's working. >> very quietly said, we would accept some cuts in benefits paid out under social security. this is a huge change. something that has been not been possible from our point of view for years. and really sets the stage potentially to return to
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solvency in that program at some time. and second thing that happened, more importantly, the senate voted by a 2-1 margin to end the subsidy on ethanol. which is a cash payment the treasury makes to farmers who grow corn that gets turned into fuel -- gwen: a great untouchable. >> very controversial program. not so much important with respect to ethanol but because it puts 33 republicans on the record as saying tax breaks, ending tax breaks, tax preferences, tax loopholes, is not the same as raising taxes. that's a huge intellectual change from what the republicans really have been saying in washington about budgets and deficits for 15 or 20 years. and also suggested maybe other tax loopholes might be repealable. maybe not in the house as quickly as in the senate. but certainly on the table and that puts another hundreds of billions of dollars potentially on the table in this deal. the third thing that happened was more of a thunderbolt from olympus, ben bernanke said
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guys, you don't have to do this all in one bite. on wednesday in a speech he said you can maybe do a little now, you can maybe do a little later in the fall, maybe some next year, but he said if you do it all at once, it might be unwise and risky given how weak the economy is right now. gwen: giving them a way out. >> does that mean in three or four weeks we will be sitting around the table talking about what a great deal they've come up with, no guarantee. but it suggests there is an atmosphere of compromise that didn't exist a few weeks ago. >> michael, there's parameters of how much they're going to be able to get in terms of deficit reduction. $2 trillion seems to be the base at this point. but there's talk of $3 trillion or $4 trillion. what do you need to go from $2 trillion to $3 trillion to $4 trillion? >> you have to come up with revenue. the republicans and democrats have agreed $2 trillion is possible over 10 years if we cut stuff, cut farm subsidies, defense, medicare, medicaid, other things. to get to $4 trillion you have to have revenue. and we're not -- clearly not talking about raising income tax, but knows kinds of tax leels like they did on -- but
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those kinds of tax deals like they did on ethanol, billions of dollars of tax breaks that people get. home mortgages, small like commuter subsidies, can now be conceivably addressed. probably not in the next three weeks but a change in sort of the scale of what they might be able to accomplish. >> speaking of the timing, house speaker john boehner had said he would like to get this done -- this deal done before july 4. the administration has obviously sent the signals we would like to get it done, too, before armageddon comes, sometime in early august. but i was talking to a member of congress this week who said, you know, deadlines are kind of like alarm clocks. around here. how realistic is it that this deal is going to get done -- gwen: alarm clocks you take it and throw it across the room and -- >> wake up and really have to get to work. >> washington has a huge snooze button and famous for hitting it and they will hit it again and the difference between what the markets will accept as a
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deadline and what washington and lawmakers will accept is very big. huge difference. that's another reason why the bernanke signal was so important. he was saying don't try to do the big fix now. take a bite out of it. do this in steps. that way you won't upset the markets. because they're going to get upset the closer you get to august 2. six weeks away. they don't move that quickly. so to suggest that it will be something smaller, something perhaps more gettable rather than large. >> one name you haven't mentioned is president obama. where is he in all this? >> so far joe biden is running these talks and overseeing them but the white house did one quick concession and suggested we might be able to -- they might be able to do a quick payroll tax extension which suggests there might be a stimulative kick at the beginning of this as well. gwen: harry reid was on the newshour and he said there are many bridges to cross so i get the feeling he was understating the challenge. pentagon secretary robert gates is on a farewell tour of sorts and as he heads for the door, he's weighing in on all the loose ends he's leaving behind. including u.s. involvement in
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libya, u.s. leadership of nato, and the military budget. >> here i would leave you with a word of caution. we must not repeat the mistakes of the past. where budget targets were met mostly by taking a percentage off of the top of everything. gwen: so what is the imprint, the impression that gates is trying to leave? >> what he's saying is even though there's a lot of talk about bunlt pressures and the -- budget pressures and the need to make cuts and even though osama bin laden is dead and drawing down in afghanistan, he's saying don't attack the defense budget. don't look at it as a place where you can make easy cuts and look for quick ways to cut the defense budget. so he -- he's cautioning against what's happened in the past. if you look at the defense budget in real dollars, it's generally looked like an e.k.g. line where it goes violently up during war and then drops precipitously afterward. and yet since 9-11, it's been steadily rising and we're now at record levels, defense spending. and despite that, he's saying look at the budget in a smarter way. we live in an uncertain world.
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and as he's cautioned nato is not spending more on defense. they're spending less. and so the u.s. will have to still be the worrell's policeman. gwen: and making that case at a time when people seem to be losing their patience not only on budget issues but also on u.s. involvement issues in libya and afghanistan. >> that's right. and two weeks to go, and a job where he really had a lot of financial freedom. and it wasn't until the very end that he really faced any financial pressures. for the last decade he's been able to spend quite freely. i think he's trying to set the tone, though, because his successor, leon panetta, is known as someone who's going to make tough decisions. he balanced the budget the last time it was balanced. and so he's senserring the climate and worried that a lot of the gains that have been made and the level in the budget will be lost in this effort to make across-the-board cuts as an easy way to solve the problem. and he's saying long term that could cost the united states more because it has in the past. most notably, post vietnam, we spent a lot of time slashing defense budget and then figuring out how to rebuild the army.
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gwen: hollow -- >> exactly. >> nancy, president obama will be making his decision pretty soon about how many troops and how fast to withdraw from afghanistan. what impact has this budget pressure had on -- or on those deliberations? >> well, the secretary said on testimony during testimony this week on capitol hill that because of the drawdown in iraq and the start of the drawdown in afghanistan that the united states is expected to save $40 billion. that's of the $150 billion that's spent on those two wars. and he suggested that that is going to be one way to see budget pressures go down. but i don't know that it's had a wider impact on the discussion of the number of troops. we haven't heard that in the building yet. the most pressing discussion we've heard is how many troops can we cut without losing the very fragile gains that have been made so far? it's interesting. there's one discussion that goes on with those in uniform and those that are in civilian clothes. because they're facing two different pressures. >> nancy, many months ago secretary gates kind of opened
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the door to the idea that the defense budget was not sacrosanct and they needed reforms and needed cuts. now he's warning, well, don't take me too seriously on that front. is there a view among military people of what is an acceptable level? if defense has to share in spending reductions, what is that? >> they're actually trying to find that out and start add comprehensive review where the military starts to discuss what kind of strategy can we have under what kind of budget. that the realization that the united states can't do all things at all times with the same budget. that that is not sustainable anymore. so the military is really trying to get at that answer. what the secretary is really saying is i've taken a low hanging fruit and cut wasteful programs and started it. but don't run amok and start cutting everything. and so there's an effort to come up with that answer. that review is supposed to come out. the results of that review this summer. and he's hoping that that will lead to a discussion about what kind of military does the
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united states want to pay for. what kind of military can it pay for. >> the u.s. has four wars under way. depending on how you count them. iraq, ahanistan, clearly something going on in yemen, and then of course we had a little bit of a tempest about whether the president needs to invoke war powers on libya. do you know how much we're spending on libya? can you talk -- is it expensive? is it not? what does it cost? >> i guess it's your definition of expensive. >> on the scale of one to iraq. >> cheap then. the numbers we heard this week was we spent -- the united states is spending in the first 60 days $761 million. it's projected to go to $1.1 billion. a lot of that has been in ammunition because nato allies don't have the ammunition. and that's where a lot of the costs have gone to. again, the united states is spending about $2 billion a week right now on its wars. and is that expensive over 90 days? it remains to be seen. gwen: probably considered expensive by members of
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congress if they didn't get a chance to vote on it which is what this war powers act is all about. we'll pick up where we left off. thank you, everyone. let conversation has to end here for now but it will continue online. on our washington week webcast extra. you can go online for more information. more insights at keep up with daily developments at the pbs newshour and we'll join you around the table next week on "washington week." happy father's day. good night. download our weekly podcast and take us with you. it's the "washington week" podcast at "washington week" online at >> "washington week" was produced by weta which is solely responsible for its content. funding for "washington week" is provided by --
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