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tv   Washington Week  PBS  April 13, 2012 9:30pm-10:00pm EDT

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it could be on the floor. i've showed a couple of them on hedges, you know, on plants. you know, the concerns of a sculptor and the concerns of a painter are inherent in each of the works that i do. i went to nigeria because i had an appointment to teach in the university. i've lived in nigeria about 36 years now. my assistants are young men from around the vicinity of the studio. basically, these are people who just finished high school and awaiting entry into university. it takes quite some time for people to pass the university entrance exam.
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and so while they are waiting and preparing for that day, find time to help me in the studio and earn some--a living. probably because i pay so well that a lot of them do come to ask whether they could help. anybody i bring in has to undergo some basic training on how to stitch the pieces together, some basic skills. the whole process and end product all have to do with freedom, flexibility, you know. so right from the instructions they, you know-- you leave a lot of room for people to play around. so the resulting work tends to have that flexibility in it. basically, i work in this way that-- where i pick a medium or a process, and i work with it for a long period, years. and it has to take something more powerful or more demanding
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gwen: candidates step on the gas as the presidential campaign picks up speed. and grasping for peace in syria. tonight on "washington week." one challenger falls. >> while this presidential race for us is over for me, and we will suspend our campaign effective today, we are not done fighting. gwen: while another comes into focus. >> this is a president who also has some explaining to do to the women of america. gwen: as both candidates compete for women voters, a democratic pundit takes on ann romney. >> his wife has never worked a day in her life. she's never dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing. gwen: not a fight the obama campaign wants. >> i don't have a lot of patience for commentary about the spouses of political candidates.
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gwen: what does this mini explosion tell us about the fight for women voters and the stakes for the fall? while, at the united nations, a ticking clock is reset on syria. >> whatever we choose to call it, we face a moment of truth. >> can bashar al-assad be trusted? covering the week, dan balz of the "washington post," beth reinhard of "national journal," john harris of politico, and doyle mcmanus of the "los angeles times." >> award-winning reporting and analysis. covering history as it happens. live from our nation's capital, this is "washington week" with again, produced in association with "national journal." corporate funding is provided by -- >> this rock has never stood
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provided by boeing, norfolk southern. additional funding 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 again. gwen: good evening. rick santorum is out. newt gingrich and ron paul inexplicably are still in. but all that matters now is mitt romney and barack obama racing to define the other as a man you do not want to be president. romney made his case today in st. louis at the national rifle association convention. >> the truth is we're struggling because our government is too big, not because of our stimulus being too small. i'm running for president
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because i have the experience and vision to get us out of this mess. gwen: the president spent his week pushing for the buffett rule, which would raise taxes on the nation's well-yest, which is something he thought ronald reagan would have supported. >> he thought the wealthiest should pay their fair share and he said so what ronald reagan was calling for then is the same thing we're calling for now. a return to basic fairness and responsibility. gwen: it takes only a glance to see what each man is trying to accomplish. how is that playing out, dan? >> based on what we've seen so far this week, it's playing out at warp speed. we thought we might get a little bit of a break after the nomination ended but we're in a thrill -- critical period and both of the campaigns are
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reacting that way. governor romney came out of the primaries scarred in some ways and he has important repair work to do. he's got to unite the party and at the same time move to the middle and try to appeal to women and hispanics, in particular. his goal, obviously, is to try to get this campaign focused on the presidents and on the economy as quickly as he can. gwen: his goal always seems to be not to borrow trouble, as my mother used to say. he went to the national rifle association convention but mentioned the word gun once and then he released an extension on his tax return. he's not doing anything to shake the both -- boat very much. >> no, but he can't afford to at this point. the worst thing that could happen at this point is a big mistake or even a modest
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mistake. we know he had some during the primaries. the obama campaign is being very aggressive as trying to paint him as someone who's out of touch and protective of the wealthy. he can't do anything that plays into the idea that he's too far to the right or too detached from average workers. he is trying to draw the distinctions with the president and put the president on the defensive. >> dan, what's the closest historical analogy to what the obama people are trying to do to roll any? trying to make him like bob dole, a good guy of a different era? are they trying to paint him as dangerous or what? >> i think the closest parallel technically is what the bush campaign in 2004 tried to do and did with some success to john kerry, which is to aggressively define him negatively and stamp him, in
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that case, it was a flip-flopper, before he could get his feet under him after the primary campaign. i was taking to tad devean, who was a key strategist for kerry. he said we had $2 million in the bank and the bush campaign has $100 million in the bank and they were able to do things early on. >> how successful has the obama side been on that so far? what the mitt romney's image like in the eyes of non-republican voters who tpwhrnlt primary states who maybe didn't tune in until now? >> well, the biggest gap that exists today has to do with personal attributes of the two candidates. the post abc poll that came out this week asked the question who's the more likable candidates? and it was the president by 64 to 26 or 28. it's an enormous gap.
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it's not the only thing that matters in campaigns but we know that that's an important thing. if you look at some of the issues they're a lot closer. who do people trust on the issues, whether it's creating jobs or dealing with the comply? this looks like a much more competitive campaign from that angle but governor romney certainly has to make up some ground that he's lost because of what the nomination battle did to him. >> what does governor romney have going for him? gwen: must be opportunities there. >> the biggest thing he has going for him is the economy. there have been some imimprovements in the economy but the unemployment rate is still above 8 pgt. the number on -- 8%. the number of unemployed people is significant. and on the post-abc poll, the president is under water in terms of his disapproval and handling of the economy. 76% of the people in the
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country do not think that the economy is in recovery. they still think it's in a recession. so governor romney is going to continue to try to focus on those aspects and remind people that it's this president who hasn't gotten us to a better place faster. gwen: if you want to know about a test of what the stakes are, nothing like the last 24 hours. it seems everyone wants women voters. this week we got a glimpse of how much. seeking to expitt a 19-point gender gap, obama said reinforces -- policies are hurting democrats. republicans said no, that would be the democrats. then romney quote is his source was his wife ann. then it was said she's never worked a day in her life. bingo, we were back in the middle of a fight over working
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mothers. we've been here before. the question is why are we here again, beth? >> we're here because of that 19-point gender gap that you mentioned and obviously both sides are trying to either keep it as large as possible or close it in romney's case, this gaffe by the democratic strategist allowed him to deflect attention -- he's been on the defensive -- deflect attention from his deficit of support and go on the offensive, go on the attack with a very broad brush and use these comments, these ill-chosen words to suggest that democrats look down on working women. like you said, the pushback was enormous. gwen: it sounded like the campaign is very worried even though they have this huge advantage. >> it shows you how sensitive this issue is and shows you how desperately obama needs to keep its advantage among women because it's at a disadvantage
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among women and also with women without college degrees. that said a lot, the amount of pushback. the other thing is that ann romney is a very sympathetic, likable person. the last thing that the obama campaign wants to do is coming across as picking someone who has raised five boys and officered illnesses. it was bad public relations. >> i was struck by that in public remark happened sometime between 10:00 and 11:00 at night. the pushback on twitter was taking place in realtime. we had a full uproar by midnight. do you think that people reacted quick enough that this is catnip for us but really of so -- no consequence? that went so much on defense there's not that much left to talk about it seems like.
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>> right, there is a political score keeping that goes on in the first 24 hours. i'm not sure the real polyquestions that are behind this, which candidate is actually going to do something? is actually committed to policies that will help? we got it a little bit with the lilly ledbetter discussion of the legislation that president obama signed and an aide for governor romney paused awkwardly when asked whether governor romney supported that. when it should have been a reflexive yes. gwen: ultimately he said he did. >> let me keep that up and ask is a very old question -- what do women want? if you listen to the obama campaign it's as if it's abortion rights and coverage of contraceptives. if you listen to mitt romney, mrs. romney has told him women
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are interested in comply and the jobs. which is it? >> right. women, just like voters across the board, the economy is their top concern. having said that just like hispanics on the issue of immigration. when women hear a candidate talking about contra semmings or abortion in a way where they come across as insensitive or not understanding, they pick up on that tone, just like hispanics take -- pick up on an unfriendly tone towards immigration. even though the comply is far and away their biggest concern. >> let's look at the other side of the ledger. if this gender gap among women, how much opportunity does governor romney have to offset that with an opposite gender gap? that is, how much can he get a positive vote from men to offset the other? >> absolutely, i think that's
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part of their game plan. in these campaigns, it's all about minimizing the deficits you have and maximizing the advantages that you have and turning that on the other opponent. so i think that that's something you'll definitely see the roll any campaign doing. gwen: let's move on to the broader picture so we can now take stock of who these two candidates really are. john harris writes in politico that obama and romney are more alike than either is likely to admit. make your case, john. >> if there's one thing that we've all written and i think we all to some extent believe is that we are living in an angry desave -- divisive polarizing age. we have plenty of examples of people who have ridden waves by tapping into that grievance. but we have these two nominees.
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we know what the general election contest is. that couldn't be further from the truth. we have two sort of cool, rationale men, who are going to -- rational men who are going to present themselves as more partisan than they actually are. in the case of both we have long records that make clear fundamentally what drives these men, who do drop different orientations. but they are fundamentally pragmatists. you have a par dofpblgts i don't think it's an accident. i think our politics is so high octane, so driven by frenzies of the sort we saw in the hillary rosen story. the media stakes are so high that the people who survive this process are the cool, disciplined ones who manage to keep their wits about them,
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stay on message. discipline matters. someone like newt gingrich doesn't have the decision palestinian at the enlt of the day. gwen: the folks who are campaigning on their behalf, the spokesmen, the super pac are still going like that. >> that's right. we're in an era of politics where, of course, the center matters but equally and perhaps more important is motivating and energizing your base. >> do you think we are heading toward an election in which the debate is fairly rational and high toned or are we heading for an election in which, despite the fact that these two candidates are, as you describe them, are going to have an angry, polized, sometimes not well-informed contest in terms of the debate the candidates themselves set off? >> i think the general election debates probably will be fairly
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elevated. i think both romney and barack obama are intelligent sort of decent men who aren't prone to that sort of politics that's fooled fight. but much of the sort of day and day out action, the storyline of the campaign will be much harsher, more elbows out. it will be interesting to have a campaign with the candidates on truth serum. we'd have to buy it in bulk, at costco or something. but barack obama is a man oaf the center left and mitt romney is a man of the center right. i think they'd find themselves agreeing a lot if they were on truth serum. >> the kind of coolness that you're describing about mitt romney and his personality. doesn't that hurt him as he's trying to mobilize the
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grassroots? >> he's got to fake it, right? he's got to pretend that he's a more radical, more aggrieved, more populous person than his full biography suggests. >> in both cases you've had a debate over whether romney is a real conservative or really a mod rot. -- moderate. is barack obama the most liberal president we've had or really a centrist? are you suggesting these guys do well because they keep us guessing on those questions? >> no, i don't really think that these men duowell because of because they have of the american democracy. both these men were identified when they were both in their
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20's as men of supreme potential and talent. people who get to the top of the greasy pole tend to be pretty talented and they have the kind of credentials you'd expect in american life. >> because they both spent so much time in the faculty lounge at harvard. gwen: let's move on. we want to get to another political drama. this one here at home but it was a much more difficult and bloody battle in syria. former u.n. general kofi annan has been trying to come up with a southeastern cease-fire and his -- syrian cease-fire and his efforts have been greeted with skepticism. >> so i think the plan is very much alive. if you take it off the table, what would you replace it with? >> we have a good efforts by a good man, kofi annan, which ran
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directly into a bad-faced response from a bad man, bashar al-assad. gwen: where do things stand tonight? >> there has been a cease-fire in place. the cease-fire that kofi annan was negotiating and somewhat to everyone's surprise it has held. friday is a very important day in any arab muslim country because that's the day people go to the mosque and then after they go to the mosque at moon -- noon, that's when the big demonstrations happened and this friday big demonstrations happened again. there were some deaths, but way lower than the kind of deaths we've seen before. the syrian army did not fire with tanks and artillery into the city. in the short term this is in a fragile way holding together. the kofi annan plan has six
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points, including the army pulling out of the cities. that hasn't happened yet. they include the government allowing the opposition free movement. that hasn't happened yet. they include negotiations between the government and the opposition. that hasn't happened yet. what we have here is kind of a short game and a long game. the short game, the government of bashar said look at the sanctions that were rising, look at the terrible blow it was taking and its public image and it was getting pressure from its russian alleys well-so -- as well so they pulled back a little bit. the long game, 240e, is bashar al-assad still expects to play in -- be in power. they expect for this confrontation to continue in slow motion. >> how much confidence does the administration have in kofi
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annan and his ability to try to pull something off? and b, what's the debate like within the administration about what to do if this doesn't work? gwen: whether intervention is inevitable? >> the administration has pretty high regard for an as a professional negotiator but he's representing a u.n. security council that doesn't want to go as far as the united states wants to do. for example, there was an arab peace plan that fell apart because the arab league didn't have the leverage and moxie to make it work. they called for annan to step down. his plan doesn't call for him to step down because you couldn't get russia and china to sign on if he stepped down. nobody expects the annan plan to stop the problem. if it slows things down and stops people from being killed by the dozens, that's pretty
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good. where does it go from here and what does the administration want out of this? you have a civil war in slow motion going on. you have an opposition that the building an army that is slowly coming together with aid from places like saudi arabia and qatar but that's been very slow. the united states doesn't want a billtary intervention. that i want al-assad to step down but the levelen -- leverage is not there to make it happen. >> to what extent does libya inform the administration response this time? >> in the short run they're very different. the big difference is in libya, colonel gaddafi had no friends.
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the rest of the world felt it could intervene. the french and british wanted to come in syria, harder to do that but let's watch this picture six months from now. after all else has failed, this may look an awful lot like libya and the administration having gotten a little bit pregnant having said we want al-assad to step down, they may have to make that choice. gwen: thank you, everyone. that's it for here for now but the conversation continues online and the "washington week" webcast extra where we'll try to make sense of president obama's buffett rule. before we go we want to send our condolences to fox news sunday's chris wallace on the loss of his father mike, a man who truly changed journalism. see you next week on
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>> tom: i'm tom hudson with a "nightly business report" news brief. a volatile week for u.s. investors ended with a down day for u.s. stocks on fresh worries about slowing growth in china and spanish borrowing costs soar. the dow fell 137 points, the nasdaq lost 44 and the s&p 500 was off 17. as for that chinese slowdown, its economy grew 8.1% in the first quarter, down from a 9% pace at the end of last year. monday, mattel, the maker of barbie dolls and matchbox cars reports earnings. we'll see how the results play with investors. for more financial news, tune in to "nightly business report" weeknights on this public television station.


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