tv Washington Week With Gwen Ifill PBS April 12, 2014 1:30am-2:01am PDT
>> kathleen sebelius, women's pay equity. 2016 politics and the civil rights anniversary. all tonight on "washington week." >> this is the most meaningful work i've ever been a part of. in fact, it's been the cause of my life. gwen: obamacare's chief architect resigns with 7 million sign-ups under her belt, and a trail of controversy behind her. what's next for the president's signature domestic achievement? 2016 heats up with all eyes on the clinton and the bush dynasties. >> we had a bush, then we had a clinton, then we had a bush, then we're going to have a clinton? >> the hard questions are not do you want to be president, can you win?
the hard questions are why. gwen: then, two discussions on equality. a women's pay equity bill goes down. >> i say square your shoulders, put your lipstick on, and let's fight another day. gwen: and the president's club gathers at the l.b.j. library to discuss johnson's signature domestic achievement 50 years later. >> the real influence of a president is not found in the headlines. it can only be judged with time. gwen: covering the week, alex wayne of bloomberg news, amy walter of the "cook political report," alexis simendinger of "real clear politics," and michael duffy of "time" agazine. >> award winning reporting and analysis covering history as it happens. live from our nation's capitol, this is "washington week" with gwen ifill. corporate funding for
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gwen: good evening. with the exit of health secretary kathleen sebelius and the arrival of her nominated replacement, sylvia matthews burwell, the white house sees a fresh chance to push ahead with implementation of its health care law. >> there are 7 1/2 million people across the country that have the security of health insurance, most of them for the very first time, and that's because of the woman standing next to me here today. and we are proud of her for that. gwen: white house officials insisted that sebelius' exit was her idea, and that burwell will pick up where she left off. is that even possible, alex? >> i think she's got some catching up to do. she comes to a new agency. she doesn't have a lot of health care experience in her professional background, although she's involved in those issues a little bit as a white house official. but she has catching up to do. she has to meet the constituency of the hospitals,
insurers, advocacy groups and ordinary americans interested in these issues. so it's going to take some time. in the meantime, the department is going through this phase where they have to accept filings from insurers for rates next year. it's a very delicate and rather controversial issue, ammed the department's leadership might be in transition while it's happening. gwen: let's talk about the department's leadership. one, there is an open kuo whether kathleen sebelius jumped or was pushed or was slow-motion jumped, i don't know. what happened? >> i think it was basically a mutually agreed-upon resignation. she's been working very hard trying to promote this law sort of out in places like texas, arizona, florida, tennessee. she's been traveling almost every week it seems for the last six months trying to drive enrollment at the ground level. in the meantime her critics say she took her eye off the federal exchange and the website collapsed. that's what led us to this
point. but i think she's also pretty tired of this job. she's been there five years and she's put a lot of work in. she got to this magic enrollment figure, 7.5 million, so she could leave with a feather in her cap. i believe her when she said she came to the president and raised the idea. i doubt the president fought her very much. gwen: she saw daylight and she dashed for it. >> so sylvia still has to go through a confirmation process. talk to us a little bit about this. it's not as if -- i don't know, congress seems a little polarize the on these issues. so the hearings will probably have fireworks. >> yes, but she seems to be a cool customer. sebelius was able to go to the hearings and take the incoming and cooley respond, and she was able to rebut them. i exbt burwell will be able to do the same. it's hard for republicans to block her from being confirmed now.
you only need 51 votes. democrats can do it without any republicans support at all and they can't filibuster. but there will be fireworks and one major step might be the vetting process. she has to file financial disclosures, etc. that has doomed secretaries for the health and human services department in the past. a guy named tom daschle. gwen: she's already been confirmed in another high-level position. >> she has. but the process for secretary is a little different. >> alex, when you look at the president's choices that he could have made to succeed sebelius, what is it that attracted him, you know, at least what did he say attracted him to sylvia? >> well, he likes her a lot personally, and he respects the work she's done at the office of management and budget. usually with a secretary position like this you can go a couple of directions. you can get a prominent politician, or you can get sort of a functionary, somebody
who's good with numbers, somebody who's good at management. in this case he wanted somebody who would go into the department and manage it, put a tight grip on the people, for example who, are building the website. gwen: you raise an interesting question. you can't fix something unless you really know what went wrong. and there are many questions still about what actually went wrong. was it just that the boomer secretary didn't get pecked or government procurement rules make it hard to get the best people? is there any agreement at all on what really made this thing blow up? >> if we set aside the obama administration, which i don't think agreed to any of the theories out there, you can put together a few things. one was the limitation they sort of put on themselves in serms of selecting a contractor. they ruled out companies like google or -- i.b.m. was actually a potential bidder. ut some of tech companies were
not eligible for this contract. they limited themselves there. they didn't hire a key contractor to run the project. and they made some policy decisions at the white house that caused some problems. during the 2012 election, the white house decided to delay a bunch of regulations that were really important to finish work on the exchange. and there's a lot of thought that that delay had something to do with a lot of problems. gwen: of course, there's always politics. i know, shocking to hear, it's my segway. i've resisted talking about 2016. i admit it. it seemed too soon, too speculative, too pat. but the truth is, we can't look away, can we? and recently, we've seen why. hillary clinton, who has been flirting for a while, and jeb bush, whose own mother has said we've had an awful lot of bushes and clintons lately. >> so, i get the point, i get the point, and it's something that i'd have to -- if i was to run, i'd have to overcome that. so will hillary by the way --
let's keep the same standard for everybody. >> i am obviously flattered and deeply honored to have people ask me and people encourage me. and i am thinking about it. but i am going to continue to think about it for a while. gwen: should we start taking them both seriously, amy? one of them or neither of them? >> yes, we have t take them seriously. they're taking it seriously. more important they're donors, party leaders, and they're taking it seriously. what i find fascinating is the fact -- and you saw it in these clips -- is that we're watching these two have a very public sort of introspection, right? they're having this debate for all of us to see about the pros and cons of running for president. usually it's when you're thinking about a new job you put the pros and the cons down. they're doing this for us. you heard obviously jeb bush, for one, talking about, gosh, there have been a lot of bushes
and clintons, but he talks about the impact on his family, about wanting to run the kind of campaign where he doesn't get caught in the vortex of mud-slinging. hillary clinton is saying, gosh, it's kind of ugly out there. gwen: i remember that same speech from scott brown, who announced this week that he is running for the senate, in spite of all these terrible things. is it just an exercise the candidates go through, so they can stretch this out as long as possiblest >> both say they want to make the decision this year, and they both have to make it this year. we know that to be the case. it doesn't really surprise me, though, that for them, these are real concerns, which is, how on earth do you, knowing what you're getting into, want to go through this again, put your family through this again, and knowing for somebody like jeb bush, for example, he hasn't been on the ballot in over 10 years, this is a very different world he's walking into. in 2002 when he ran or
re-election, i didn't have a blackberry, we didn't have twitter or the kind of 24/7 minute-by-minute campaign coverage. it's different. >> amy, you were mentioning the groups or the pours that be that are urging jeb bush, what does that represent to the rrp party when they have rand paul or chris christie? >> it's a good question. he's old and new. he's very familiar to them. the establishment loves him because they know him and they feel comfortable with him. but he also does something that not a lot of the other candidates can do, who is an establishment figure, and that's reach out to a new group of voters. that's reaching out to minorities, something that republicans have had a tough time doing. he speaks spanish fluently. he's married to a mexican-american woman. this is somebody who talks openly about immigration reform in a way we heard him this past week talking about it not being a felony, but an act of love to
actually try to come here illegally. so this is somebody who can broaden the base, even though he has the name bush. >> so is the election over, or is there a -- >> we're all done. >> particularly clinton. >> this is what's fascinating. on the republican side, you have a lot of establishment figures coming and telling jeb bush we want you. if you look at the polls of republicans, he's not the frontrunner in the way hillary clinton is the frontrunner. the republican party has a very deep bench right now, and no clear frontrunner. on the democratic side you have a clear frontrunner and though bench and that's the pressure on hillary clinton that's different from the pressure on jeb, which is democrats saying oh my gosh, if you don't run, i don't know if we can win without you. gwen: the republican bench are people who ran last time and maybe one or two others, like rand paul, who did not run. >> there's a lot of new people. gwen: who? >> marco rubio, rand paul,
chris christie, scott walker, jeb bush. gwen: ok, never mind. [laughter] who's on the democratic bench? >> the sitting vice president of the united states, which usually is considered, right, the person that's going to take the torch. but he's got his own bag damage and his own issues. he's not particularly popular. then you get past him and you start to go, well, of course. certainly there are some women in the mix, somebody like elizabeth warren, a senator from massachusetts. governor martin o'malley from maryland. >> andrew cuomo. they think they can run for president. >> they do think so, but -- gwen: but things change, you know? and the things we think are true two years out change, no? >> yes, they do, you're right. gwen: you give me one, i give you one. we move on and we're both wrong it turns out, thank you, amy. the presidency has its power
and its limits. in a moment, we'll talk about how presidential power changed civil rights law. but this week when it came to gender pay equity, the president's power was limited to signing executive orders calling for transparency and accountability for federal contractors. the next day, the senate blocked a more far-reaching pay equity bill. was this debate real, for show, or really about something else? >> you know, no one made any bones about saying it was about turning out democratic voters that will be needed in a mid-term election when democrats, including president obama, have been candid and forthright about how they're expecting what the president calls hibernation among the voters that will be needed to actually turn out in november. so what they're looking at -- and this is a very old playbook that democrats have played with before. president obama has prospered with this playbook -- is that they need women voters to turn out and specifically, they need unmarried women voters. so when you look at --
gwen: why is that? what is it about unmarried women voters? they lean more heavily democratic? >> in the last election we had 1/4 of the voters who participated were unmarried women. and 2/3 of them went for the democratic candidate, barack obama. so what they're looking at is, where can we, among young people, among our gemdrask women, among minorities -- demographic women, among minorities, how can we encourage them to turn out in ways they did in 2008 and 2012 for president obama, but they might not because he's not on the ballot, or they're discouraged about the economy or discouraged about washington's ways? so what they're looking at is these ingredients pay equity, fairness, the idea of child care, health care. interestingly enough, the pollsters are saying if you mix the two ingredients, health care and pay equity, you can get unmarried women's
intensity, the intensity of their support for democrats. so there was a pending bill and this is the third time through the turnstile and every single republican voted against it. gwen: so it's an issue. > it's an issue. is it an issue for republicans? do they see this as an snish they see this both on unemployment extension, now on this issue, minimum wage debate, they seem more than happy to say, go for it, democrats, see what you can do. >> part of the rebuttal from republicans and the senate in particular, was that this was a show, that this was part of political theater and they did a prebuttal about this vote. they said harry reid was staging this in order to stake a claim for democrats to appeal to women. but republicans are saying, look, we have an addendum, too, that we are against discrimination and compensation and we want to help women in the workplace through flexibility and through employ-provided benefits.
we're not opposed to that. what we're saying is that they don't want to mandate that employers do certain things. >> republicans don't seem to be very scared of this issue. why does the white house think that a failed senate vote is going to get voters out to the polls? >> well, if you listen to the president as the leader of the party, whether he's talking at fundraisers or in a speech, talking about this particular legislation, what he's saying is it gives us the opportunity to say republicans are hard-hearted, mean people, who don't care about women, who don't care about single women trying to raise a family and he's using it very much as a political bludgeon. whether or not voters know about the vote itself, it gives them a chance to say no republicans voted for this or they're opposed to this or the paul ryan house passed budget by the republicans is the mean sandwich, the mean nhl wich. >> there is a very famous moment with it president talked about using in the state of the union, these executive orders,
no matter how far han ranging they are not, are an example of the pen? >> the president said, look, the senate has this vote and i'm going to show what i can do on my own. that was part of the pen, the executive, very coordinated executive action. it was an order that deals with contractors and a memorandum that deals with information-gathering that goes into the government. the president said this can only go so far, but i want to do my part and people say that -- lots of people agree that through attacking this problem through contracting does have an effect. it sets an example. and that it can spread. gwen: well, at least that's what they're counting on. we'll see if it works. most of the surviving members of the president's club met, in serial fashion, at the l.b.j. library this week. one after the other, presidents jimmy carter, bill clinton, barack obama and george w. bush took turns praising the presidency of lyndon b. johnson and the accomplishments of the civil rights act of 1964. one striking thing these men have in common -- an
appreciation of just how hard it is to get big things done. earlier today i spoke with "time" magazine's michael duffy about president obama's revealing speech. >> those of us who have had the singular privilege to hold the office of the presidency know well that progress can be hard and it can be slow. frustrating and sometimes stymied, the office humbles you. you're reminded daily that in this great democracy you are but a relay swimmer in the currents of history, bound by decisions of those who came before, reliant on the efforts of those who will follow to fully vindicate your ision. gwen: michael duffy, the author of "the president's club," joins me now. for any president, it's all about vindicating your vision,
isn't it? >> there's always time for another coat of paint, even after you've left the white house. when four presidents got together this week in pieces, in defendant order to go to the johnson library, they all had a slightly different story, a slightly different take. president bush talked about education, but president obama talked about lyndon johnson and civil rights and race, but he also talked about power and the presidency, its uses, its opportunities and its punishments. gwen: he quoted lyndon johnson saying, "what the hell is the presidency for, if not to accomplish big things?" >> you can read president obama's speech as a really good historical analysis of the great society and lyndon johnson's struggles with his own party and civil rights. but you could also read it as a pretty revealing defense by president obama of his presidency, his decision to seize the moment and do health care early in his presidency,
as well as his decisions now as his second term really reaches the midpoint to do executive actions on things like immigration, criminal justice, guns, because he knows he can't get other things done legislatively. when he asks, what the hell is the presidency for in lyndon johnson's words, he's also asking about his own term. gwen: it's interesting to look at all the presidents that were there. lyndon johnson came out of the box on civil right. for president obama, he came out of the box on health care and, of course, the economy got in the way, too. but -- and in the case of george w. bush he came out of the box on war in some respects, things that he had to accomplish. there's a connection between them that's more similar than one would think. >> they all have had big struggles in their first terms and sometimes uncertainties in their second terms, if they get them. president obama also noteed that each presidency is the work of not just one man, but of multiple presidencies.
it took president clinton to start health care, president obama to finish it. it took harry truman to start medicare and lyndon johnson to finish it. these works take decades. presidents of different parties. and he said we're just relay swimmers in a great current of history. whenever a president speaks in another president's library, they are mindful of the history. gwen: john f. kennedy started civil rights and lyndon johnson finished part of it. but he wasn't the last president to have to speak to that issue. >> oh, no. nor is it over now. and that's one of the things president obama said. others followed. it's a continuing struggle and a continuing campaign that other presidents who follow president obama will have to pick up at the time and swim with. gwen: it was really interesting to me to hear george w. bush talk, something he said before, it takes time before people begin to understand a
president's accomplishments. >> he's betting on it. he feels very confident that history will redeem him. he's told his friends that. he's not in any hurry to prove it. other presidents come, i guess, into retirement with lots of years ahead of them and begin long campaigns to make sure that the historians get it right. that tends to be more typical. george w. bush is a little more unusual. gwen: listening to president obama's speech, did it sound like ruminations of a second-term president to you? >> it sounded like someone who has now appreciated both the possibilities and opportunities of this office as well as its difficulties. he said sometimes progress is slow. he said it's a frustrating job. he said you get used to being stymied and sometimes you have to fall back on the fact that you can go down the hall and look at the other presidents who came before you and see that over time eventually they, too, were appreciated. gwen: and he came back around today in talking about secretary sebelius and talking about their bumps and bruises that they both suffered and he
could have been talking about his entire presidency. >> speeches like this one is in addition to being about big issues like race and power. it's also about the human elements of just having this job and what it does to you and the scars and bruises it leaves on your back. and as president obama has stayed longer, we hear more about that and that's kind of good for everybody to know, especially in this political age. gwen: especially from our former presidents. michael duffy, thanks a lot. >> you bet. and thanks to everyone here at the table. we have to leave you for now, but the conversation continues online, on the "washington week" webcast extra, streaming live at 8:30 eastern time, and all week long at bs.org/washingtonweek. we'll chat, among other things, about how medicare paid millions to some doctors and why we're just now hearing about it. and i'll be online thursday at noon for my monthly webchat. be sure to send me your questions.
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