tv Washington Week PBS March 23, 2012 8:00pm-8:30pm PDT
gwen: federal investigators looking into the tvaon martin case and miscues on the campaign trail and the renew signs of the budget plan unveiled. >> we're not permitting any crimes. our son is your son. gwen: uproar over the killing of an unarmed florida teenageer reaches washington. >> if i had a son he'd like travon. gwen: the justice department steps in. on the campaign trail, victory. >> what a night. thank you, illinois, what a night. wow. gwen: and setbacks. >> it's almost like an etch a
sketch. it's almost like you can shake it up and start all over again. >> instead of taking a risk of maybe the etch a sketch candidate for the future. gwen: does romney have a knock on the nomination or is he still a weak front run er? on capitol hill, paul ryan once again throws down the gauntlet on the size of the federal budget. >> if we simply operate simply based on political fear, nothing's ever going to get done. gwen: is this the beginning or the end of it? joining us is pierre thomas of abc news, dans balz of "the washington post," sam youngman of reuters and naftali bendavid of "the wall street journal." >> live from our nation's capital, this is "washington week with gwen ifill" produced
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washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. it started in a quiet gated community in florida nearly a month ago. three weeks later it exploded online and tonight the curious case of the killing of tvaon martin an unarmed black teenager at the hands of a neighbor who considered him suspicious has sparked a federal outcry. this was the president today. >> i think every parent in america should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together, federal, state and local to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened. gwen: george zimmerman has still not been arrested. and the calls for action are now coming from leaders of all races, age, gender and party. what kind of investigation are we talking about what the
president was talking about today, pierre? >> innocent until proven guilty but the question is how. how do you end up walking down the street with skittles and tea and end up dead. the justice department is not going to resolve the murder issue. what they're looking at is was there a civil rights violation. the key is did mr. zimmerman have the intent to harm or violate travon's life. gwen: this is a terrible thing. here it turns out now with the justice department and the president was speaking today, seems like there is so much writing on it. >> you have two investigations. the department of justice you can think as the loca and state prosecutors cannot move there because of the law of standure
of ground. there are some questions of how the police handled the case. they didn't talk to all of the witnesses initially. there are some serious issues about can they make a case? the f.b.i. is deeply involved. they will look at the 911 tapes. what did he say? did he give any indication of his intent. a key moment, i'm told is a moment where the police told him, we don't need do you do anything more and he still goes after the young man. that is going to be the key, part of the investigation. the other aspect is the 911 tapes also reveal him saying something about the young man. now that tape is going to get considerable scrutiny because depending on what he said that again will get to the intent. >> here you mentioned the stand your ground laws. what's the origin of those? there are a lot of states that have them. somehow that a complicating
factor? >> there are 20 states that have this law. it is basically put forth by people who want local citizens to have the right to stand your grand. it is intended with people breaking into your home. in fact, the author of the florida law has been saying this week he does not think this law does not apply to this. i meant that law to persons defending themselves when confronted. the question tonight would be a person who's chasing a young man or following a young man, does that get into a gray area that has not been resolved before. >> do you feel like -- how do you quantify or measure the impact of the president getting involved? i know on tuesday i asked governor romney about this. he didn't have an answer. today he came out with a statement. can you talk about how the president's involvement shakes things up? >> it seemed again like watching
it where the moment he was asking a question, and you can tell he thought about it. this is such an emotional issue that particularly in the african-american community, everyone is talking about this. if you know someone who's african-american, they are talking about what do you say to your son or to your cousin who might be out there. these are conversations that have been had through the generations that many people thought you shouldn't have to have in the 21st century but we're having. >> it seems like an extraordinary moment, almost reminiscent of things that happened during the civil rights area. >> you're walking down the street. you have skittles and tea. how do you end up dead? gwen: you talk about the role of the national rifle association. how do we know that one thing is connected to the other? i guess that's the key part of what this investigation is about. >> first of all, people wanted
to make sure that we have a right to bear arms. you see a lot of arms about conceal and carry. and then out of that, there goes this notion of stand your ground, protect yourself. now we're seeing the ramification in some cases where these laws aren't as precise as people maybe intended them to be. now you have a situation is where this man is accused of being a vigilante and killing this boy cold blood. gwen: who handles this situation. we say that the feds stepped in. >> in this case it's going to be the f.b.i. really, you saw new the 1950's and 1960 's where the f.b.i. is asked to step in where in some cases the local community can't or won't. gwen: we'll be watching it very closely. the local community have forced the police chief toe step aside. they're beginning to revisit all of this and i have a feeling it
will boil. now we move on to politics. on paper mitt romney had a good week, with a big win in illinois he muted last week's rumors about the convention. he snagged an endorsement from jeb bush and he widened his lead over his challengers. so there was plenty of room for everyone to go offmessage. newt gingrich and rick santorum pounced. was this much to do about very much or evidence on enduring weakness on the part of the frontrunner? >> well, it is certainly if latest example of the romney campaign's ability to trample on good news. gwen: it's a skill. they've got a real skill. >> almost every time they have a good moment, by the next day they're in the soup. this was a perfect example. go through the balance sheet. the illinois victory was a good victory for them. they picked up the endorsement of jeb bush. endorsements don't mean a lot
but an endorsement from jeb bush coming from this moment had a psychological impact that give the romney campaign and loyalists to the romney campaign the opportunity to say to everybody it's time to close this down. it's time to focus on barack obama, not on one another. but if you look at it from the flip side, he should have won illinois. illinois set up perfectly for mitt romney. it's a state that's much more partial to moderate republicans than to deeply conservative republicans. he runs the risk of losing a state tomorrow, saturday, in louisiana. he widened his delegate lead and yet nothing happened in illinois that suggests that he's going to go get the magic number of 44. gwen: sam you have been nonstop on the road and as you watched this develop what plan do you see forming in the minds of the frontrunner especially to keep people who are nipping at his heel?
>> it's interesting. my first thought when i heard the etch a sketch remark i felt this was the for gab of the election campaign. everything steemed be devolving from the field. the etch a sketch moment, i'm not sure it is good for gingrich and santorum campaign to be waving. it's clearly a strategy position that they've taken, that they're planning on making after the nomination is settled and going after barack obama. this to me was what flip flop was in 2004. flip flop wasn't the punchline. in 2004, it was pretty new. to me, this is the most -- the biggest gaffe so far of the general election. gwen: actually the only people happier than newt gingrich and
rick santorum about this was the obama campaign which immediately tweeted oh, we won't let you forget this. >> they've got a long list of things they won't let the mitt romney forget. and i think they think in a significant way this limits his ability to maneuver once he becomes the nominee assuming he does as everybody does at this point that this locks him into a situation where you can't go back if you've already suggested that you're intending to. so he's moved to the right in order to win the nomination. gwen: but they all do. >> which -- it's not surprising. given where this party is and where mitt romney starts, he had to. you know, he is not in total fit with this party. so he had to make those moves. makes it a lot harder to go back when something like this has been said. >> where does the primary fight
stand now? are we any closer for newt gingrich or rick santorum stepping out? >> well, i think the primary fight for all intents and purposes has been settled is that nobody's told santorum or gingrich. it's going to keep going as long as they will stand. the most fass nating -- fascinating thing is the way the super pac are still hanging around. i could envision a scenario where santorum thinks he wins in pennsylvania and exits stage right. i'm not sure he can win pennsylvania. as dan mentioned they go to louisiana tomorrow. it's looking favorable for santorum. maybe he'll get some more mileage. as for speaker gingrich, i don't know what to tell you. it gets a little harder for me to envision him as the nominee.
>> the interesting thing about this race at this point and there are two grooves that these candidates are now in. mitt romney has a coalition of people make more than $100,000. people who are not evangelical christians. rick santorum is the opposite. there's a statistic from my friend rob. rick santorum has not won any contest where evangelicals make 50% of the electoral state and mitt romney has not won a state in which evangelicals make up more than 50%. you can see romney winning a whole series of races in april and then if santorum is someone alive, santorum going on a winning streak in may. >> but dan, is there any way to stop him from getting to 1144. gwen: which is the number of
delegates you need to punch the nomination. >> i think there might be -- i think it's possible. gwen: walk us through that. how is that possible? >> the math is hard to do. but the reality is, the romney campaign, i think sam would confirm this, believes that it would take virtually until the owned of the primaries in june for him to get to 1144 assuming that, you know, he still has competition. the only way to get out of that is to begin to breakaway. there was a sign in illinois. he did a little better with the groups he doesn't do particularly well with. if he had a breakout victory in wisconsin which is on april 3rd, you can then begin to see him putting a coalition together in which he would accumulate delegates faster. but if santorum decides to stay in the race and we don't know whether he will or he won't, it could be hard for him to get
there much before the end of the primaries. >> i mean, -- they're not exiting at a time when a normal candidate would exit. they seem determined to stick around. gingrich, santorum and ron paul. gwen: it's really interesting to hear santorum as he said this week than anything is better -- obama is better than romney. that was kind of a gaffe. >> yeah, without question. and it's one that the romney campaign jumped all over. his biggest saving grace was that it turned into a food fight more than it had before than with the etch a sketch with santorum's comments. and some of the comments they made on travon martin. i don't know what's motivating them. but you've seen a shift from the romney campaign. after super tuesday they brought us to boston and it was a math
class. now you're hearing the change in message. it's not we're going to get the delegates, it's about it's time to unite. they're starting to shift with the endorsement of jeb bush and let's not weak n ourselves and bead barack obama. gwen: what dans says it's true the jeb bushes of the world who represent the establishment are not what they need. they need the jim demints of the world and the tea party themed organization who are giving him a lukewarm, well it could be worst. >> they're a short of an endorsement. for you question -- i think gingrich in his heart has concluded that the party will not in the end go with romney. and he's just going to kind of hang around for a while. >> do you really think he
believes that? >> i think he believes that. i don't know if he believes that at the moment. i think for santorum. santorum looks a romney and looks at the republican party of today and says this is the disconnect. there is no reason why mitt romney should be the nominee of the party. there are some romney people who say it's pretty surprising that he's done as well as he has. and so for santorum again because he's able to keep winning off and on, the incentive was to kind of keep planting the flag for the most conservative sight of the party. >> that's why etch a sketch was such a big moment in the campaign. he's been screaming for months that the emperor has no clothes. and here is evidence that the emperor is naked. gwen: we have louisiana saturday, pennsylvania coming down the road. are there any key moments that will tell us what direction this
is going to go and how quickly that might wrap up? >> i go back to wisconsin. wisconsin is a state -- santorum made a good run in michigan, fell short. made a better run in ohio, fell very short and lost that. didn't have a good week in illinois, lost that badly. wisconsin is another opportunity. wisconsin is on the border between the states where santorum has done well. minnesota, iowa, missouri and the beauty contest and where romney has beaten him in the big industrial state. this is kind offend a transitionalle spot. it doesn't have are the kind of evangelical population buzz it has more of a down scale than some of the other states. if santorum does something surprising or if romney rolls there, then you can probably see an acceleration. gwen: waukesha, here we go. back to washington. paul ryan wants to save america. at least that's what the
republican house budget chair wants you to believe. he wants you to focus on the looming budget deficit. few think his plan will survive the senat but ryan thinks it's a fight worth having. >> if i had a dollar for every political consultant that told me don't touch these programs, don't touch medicare, medicaid, all of these things because the other part they're going run all these negative ads against you and you might lose your election. if i had a dollar for every one of those people, we could probably retire the national debt. >> they want medicaid to wither on the vine to die and this is an important step in that direction. bless their hearts, they don't believe in medicare and they act upon their belief. gwen: we've heard some version of this fight before. ryan is clearly trying to accomplish the same thing. what is that? >> last time it wasn't in aner leaks year. what he's trying to do now is insert this plan into the national debate and more specifically to the republican
presidential campaign. he was very clear when he rolled it out. you know, we still have this muddlele as we've been discussing in the nomination fight. we don't have a nominee but we don't have a coherent message. i think he sees himself as the leader of the opposition a leader of the opposition saying this is what republicans are about, slashing spending, taxes and taking another look at medicare, medicaid and social. gwen: it's so easy to do and usually gets little support. once again, what's different this time? >> the dem creates are jumping on that. and they want to do exactly what they did last time which is to make medicare this huge issue. now the thing that ryan's doing a little differently is introducing a very specific -- i shouldn't say that, it's a moderately specific tax change where there will be two brackets. he hopes that's clear, understandable, message that the
american public can latch on to. so while they are talking about the medicare part of the plan. he's going to be talking about the medicate part of the plan. >> they say it might cost him an election. he's not to believe one running. what's the risk? is it the same as it was last year, the rissing k of getting involved with something that has -- risk of getting involved with somethinging that has that cut? >> medicaid perhaps a little bit less. but these are sort of cherished programs and we've seen that since the first ryan budget and we're going to see it again. it's interesting that the balance that the republicans are trying to strike. you don't criticize or distance yourself from paul ryan. newt gingrich found that out when he was critical of a ryan budget but at the same tie they don't want to embrace it completely. so you're seeing them walk this
line where they're supportive of the ryan budget but they're not embracing it completely. >> what's his goal? >> again, he was fairly clear that help doesn't think this is going to become law right away. he wants to put out there what is a contrast and that this is an issue they can run on. paul ryan is a young, charismatic young guy. and he's had opportunities to run for house lindsay:. he's turned them down. he seems like he's the conscious of the republican party. gwen: newt gingrich talked about that being a right-wing social engine. >> he's become a revered figure in the republican party. among independents it's a little bit of a mixed i impression. but the way he talks, it's almost like a prophet. he talks about a decline if we
follow the democratic path and the hope and prosperity and growth when we follow the republican path. >> one of the reactions this week to the ryan plan was that it disrupts or it violates the budget agreement of last year. what will this do to the budget talks themselvess? gwen: got to do it really quickly. >> it raises the ponlt at least of another government shutdown threat coming up right before the election that i don't think either party -- gwen: now the government shutdown threat. thank you, everybody else. the conversation has to end here. but it continues online later on on our web cast extra where we explain that the republicans and democrats think that ryan's plan can only help them.
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