tv Washington Week PBS May 28, 2011 6:30am-7:00am PDT
gwen: politics, politics, politics. from sarah palin to mitt romney to medicare. while in the u.k., france, and poland, the president searches for commond ground, tonight on "washington week." >> i'm tim pawlenty, and i'm running for president of the united states. gwen: mitch daniels drops down. sarah palin drops hints. a low-profile special election catapults medicare to the front burner. >> thank you all so much. gwen: meanwhile, the obamas take europe. with a little guinness, a little glamour, and a lot of the nitty-gritty of international give and take.
>> it would have been easy at the outset of the crackdown in libya to say that none of this was our business. gwen: including some fence mending. >> but israel will not negotiate with a palestinian government backed by the palestinian version of al qaeda. that we will not do. >> it is very difficult for israelis to sit across the table and negotiate with a party that is denying your right to exist. gwen: and the supreme court presses not one but two hot buttons, on crime and immigration. covering the week, dan balz of "the washington post." major garrett of "national journal." helene cooper of "the new york times." and joan biskupic of "usa today." >> award-winning reporting and analysis, covering history as it happens. 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 -- >> this rock has never stood still. since 1875, we've been there for our clients through good times and bad. when their needs changed, we were there to meet them. through the years from insurance to investment management from real estate to retirement solutions, we developed new ideas for the financial challenges ahead. this rock has never stood still. and that's one thing that will never change. prudential. >> corporate funding is also provided by boeing. additional funding is provided by the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public broadcasting, and by contributions to pbs stations from viewers like you. thank you. once again, from washington,
moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. well, she's back. kind of. maybe. maybe not. of course we're talking about the latest potential twist in the 2012 republican presidential jockeying, and that's the return of sarah palin. we don't know if she's running yet. she is launching an east coast bus tour this weekend, but the possibility overshadows the certain candidates and worries those still on the sidelines. what are people saying about all this, the latest twists and turns? >> they can't stop talking about it. sarah palin has more or less been on the sideline through much of the spring, has not had a lot of public appearances, and suddenly on thursday, she announces that she's about to embark on this one-nation tour, which at first we thought was going to be a one-week tour starting in washington this weekend and going up the east coast. sometimes she will hit new hampshire as part of this. we don't quite know when yet, but she's going to be in new hampshire.
but then we realize later in the day that this is a multi-week tour. she will go out for a number of weeks, not in succession, and she's going to hit all parts of the country. she's going to go to historical sites and try to draw attention to herself as only she can. there will be this enormous media frenzy, which will already was yesterday on this, that will follow her up the east coast and continuing to ask the question, well, is this the beginning of a presidential campaign or just another example of sarah palin attracting attention? gwen: if you're mitt romney or tim pawlenty or -- i could name five other names here, how concerned are you about this? >> well, in varying degrees you are concerned about it. if you're tim pawlenty, this means if she were to get into the race -- gwen: who announced this week. >> announced this monday formally and has spent the week making stops in key states. if you're somebody like tim pawlenty, you know you are going to be very overshadowed. until she did this, tim pawlenty was having a pretty good several weeks because a number of
prominent candidates, mitch daniels being the most recent announced that they were not going to run. haley barber and another one. that gave tim pawlenty an opening. if sarah palin comes in, she will just take up so much space that it will be hard for him to get attention. for mitt romney, it sets up the possibility, if she is to become a candidate. and again, there's no clear evidence that this is a precursor to a campaign. we need to emphasize that. but this would set up a class i think battle between the establishment frontrunner and the insurgent tea party candidate, which would remind people of the divisions we've seen in the party and highlight those in a way almost no other candidate would be able to do. >> well, you know, dan, say it isn't for real. say that we don't know. and if it isn't, it can't help but remind us of donald trump and a little bit of how he drew so much attention without being a serious candidate but sucked a lot of air out of the news coverage, as she is doing now.
can we see a new model of people who can use a bit of a toe in the water or faux presidential run at this early stage to get more attention for books, tv shows, those kinds of things? >> yes, we may be able to say that about this. but i've always thought that sarah palin didn't really need a lot of that to continue to have her brand. she can do a minimal amount of that and still have a presence. what's interesting about the timing of this tour is it coincides with two other things. one, the reports that she and her husband have purchased a house in scottsdale, arizona. if she's going to run for president, she needs to be based in the lower 48. it's just physically and logistically difficult to run out of alaska. so that would be a sign that maybe -- >> maybe it is for real. >> maybe it is for real. there is a new movie that's about to come out that her team had encouraged. a conservative film maker has made a two-hour documentary.
i talked to him this week and he said, you know, whether you like sarah palin or not, i am convinced that when people see this, they will come away with a different impression of her. no one will be able to say, as he put it, that she isn't tough and smart and dedicated. it's all about what she did in alaska and that kind of going against the establishment, which fits into the narrative that we know she would like to use if she ran for president. >> what does your gut tell you? sounds like you think she's going to run. >> well, i don't know. i have thought for a long time that she would keep the door open until there wasn't any time left and then she wouldn't be able to run. that she would never say no. and this is another example of being able to do that. she's unique in that respect. most of the republicans that we all talk to have thought for some time she would not run. and i think most of them still believe that is the case. gwen: i worry a little bit that we're spending all our time
talking about sarah palin when we have candidates who actually are in the race, including tim pawlenty. >> yes. and what i'm curious about is do you think it's time if you're tim pawlenty, mitt romney, john huntsman, or anyone else to work your message or work your strategy around the assumption of sarah palin, or do you push forward, or do you just pretend this doesn't exist? and can you afford to make that kind of strategic calculation? >> well, i think for most of them they have to operate on the idea that she may be in or she may not and you can't build your campaign around a what if. i spent some time up in boston earlier this week talking so some of the romney folks. and their view is whoever is in is in and whoever is not in is not. we've got a campaign of the type we want to run and we're going to run that campaign. gwen: michelle bachman is telling her her heart is telling her to get in. there was also some substance that snuck in this week in the form of a special election that
turned a red district blue, apparently because of unhappiness about a republican plan to revamp medicare. that plan's author congressman paul ryan says the opposition is just an excuse to do nothing about a growing problem. >> the irony of this is our plan actually preserves the benefit for current seniors, but trying to scare seniors and turning these things into political weapons, what that ends up doing is inflicting political paralysis. that means nothing gets done. gwen: but it does provide a political framework at least for this political conversation we're having. >> certainly it does. the big question is is that a framework that will last for two weeks or 18 months? democrats believe this will be among the divining issues of the 2012 election, just as medicare in the president's health care reform was part of the debate in the 2010 election. what you had was a special election where you had a decent republican candidate jane corwin who was a member of the state
assembly. the last three special elections in new york, the county chairs in the republican party have put up three assembly candidates. they've all lost. that gives you some idea of the throw weight, it's pretty minute call. the democrat was the erie county clerk. had a bit more local attachment. medicare was clearly the issue. kathy ran an ad on it first. jane corwin was looked at as someone late to the defense of that plan. and special elections turn on lots of things. turnout, the third party candidate -- gwen: it's possible to overinterpret. >> yes, but republicans and democrats in the aftermath are looking at medicare and saying this was the lever. this was decisive. the polling for three consecutive weeks before this election was held showed hawkull ahead. there was plenty of money engaged in this. medicare was her top issue and
she prevailed in a very red district. that means republicans have to do one of two things. get off the medicare train entirely or defend it more aggressively. >> which one are they going to do? >> they will stick with it. they are now in the process of trying to defend it more aggressively. i talked to paul ryan yesterday. he said to me this is no time to go wobbly. this is a churchillian moment for our party and for me. he said he talked to 100 house republicans in the last 48 elections, since the special election. all of them said, put me in, coach. we're ready to defend this. paul ryan believes that over the 18-month periods, this debate will allow republicans to talk more authortively about what this does and doesn't do. democrats believe the longer this goes, the better off they are. >> major, you mentioned the money spent. was there a lot of national money that came in because this was such a symbolic race? >> there was money, and much more on the republican side.
there was outside money from american cross roads, 700,000. the national republican congressional campaign committee put 400,000. so that's more than a million. >> a third party candidate. >> jane corwin put in 200 of her own. so more than $3 million. a new independent group with some formal white house officials as a part of it put in about 500,000 in this race. so there was money, internal and external. more on the republicans' side. they thought that money would get more than it got them. gwen: but there was a third party candidate who put in millions of his own money. >> ran twice as a democrat, ran on the tea party line, was a republican before he was a democrat. he got 9% and there are some republicans who still continue to argue if you take his 9%, put it with corwin's 43, you get 52. well, yes. you can do that if you like, but you still lose. because that's not how it works.
>> major, it now looks as though the republicans got themselves into this battle over medicare without thinking through how to make the argument to get themselves off the defensive. i mean almost from the minute this ryan plan was put in place, and certainly at the moment president obama took up the challenge, they had been on the defensive end. have not found a way to talk about it. do they have a plan now to move it in a different direction? >> well, they have a plan to stick with it, but they stick with it only in sort of a rhetorical sense. the key thing in the house when you have a budget resolution is do any of the other committees responsible for actually writing that budget resolution in the law put together legislation to enact it? a budget resolution is a blueprint. the president doesn't sign it, it's not a law. it's just a blueprint. the wames committee -- ways and means committee has decision power of whether or not to turn it into a bill. they're going to hold hearings. no commitment to write a bill. that means in rhetorical terms, republicans will defend it, but they're not going to make
members at any time soon, or i would say ever this year, take another vote along these lines. gwen: and democrats are in this. president clinton was talking about how democrats shouldn't use this as a way not to fix medicare. mitch daniels has kind of embraced that approach. -- mitch mcconnell has kind of embraced that approach. >> what we've seen in weach, and this is a phrase paul ryan used to me, the weaponization of politics. i've used both parties use it with tremendous effect. until there's a cease fire, it will be used to tremendous effect. i get no sense whatsoever democrats are prepared to sign on to that cease fire. gwen: president obama is winding up a week-long trip to europe that featured large, warm trials, etiquette stumbles, and in the end some polite agreement. >> my friend and partner, dmitry medvedev. i just want to very briefly say
how glad i am to have an opportunity to discuss important issues with prime minister kan once again. gwen: they're always happy to see each other, but always occurs, there was text and there was subtext. first, what was the overall goal of a trip like this? >> he went to rediscover his irish roots. didn't you see that? i've never seen obama that happy. he downed a whole pint of guinness. we all know he barely drinks beer. gwen: so they say. >> so they say. i think the people there were all chirping very gleefuly at his missteps in london saying at least their trip didn't have that sort of thing. but the real intended goal for the white house in this overall european trip can be summed up in four words, the middle east and north africa. i mean, that was sort of the specter that hung over everything. yeah, you saw at the g8 today the world leaders pledge $20 billion towards egypt and tunisia in helping rebuild and
development and job opportunity, and they're hoping to send a message to these countries, but also to arab protesters around the arab world that the west is behind them. so that's part of it, too. libya and the nato assault in libya was a big part. but if you ask the white house, what do you most want to get out of the trip? the answer that i kept getting was, you know, this is an arab-israeli trip. the reason why is a little bit complicated. the vote for palestinian statehood that's coming up in the united nations in september. and president obama was trying to get european countries -- the u.s. will vote no, of course, but president obama is trying to get european countries to also agree not to vote for it because the israelis are terribly, terribly worried that they'll lose a lot of the european countries on that one. gwen: was that overshadowed by what appeared to be a dust-up between the prime minister and the president?
>> when president obama, as you know, made his announcement last week, pledging that he thought that an arab-israeli peace plan should be based on israel's 1967 borders with mutually agreed land swaps. a white house official i was sitting with earlier this week told me in the view of the white house, this was their way to lure the europeans against voting for this u.n. security -- it's such a complicated strategy. but by giving european countries like britain, france, italy, and germany, who have all been a little tougher on the israelis than the americans have, giving them a place to park their grievances so they can feel that they're pressuring the israelis as well by getting behind this american plan and saying we've got something that we're pushing them to do, they would then feel as if, ok, we've gotten it off our chest, we don't have to vote for this u.n. council security for state hood. i was looking the same way as
they explained this to me. but they really believe this is one way to avert what could be a hugely embarrassing vote for israel in september. most of the rest of the world will surely sign on. latin america and african, middle east, asian countries are expected to vote for this. the u.s. will vote against it. but what the israelis really don't want is for britain, france, germany, and the rest fotch big european -- and the rest of the big european countries to vote. >> did you get the idea that it was working from what you were observing? >> a few parts are kind of working. i think the answer to that is yes and no. david cameron, prime minister david cameron said on wednesday -- yes, it was on thursday. he said we don't think the u.n. is a forum for this, but he would not commit to voting. he said it's not time for me to say whether or not. the administration thinks they've got the british onboard. the french say they're not so sure. they think at the moment that they're still going to vote in favor of the palestinian
statehood resolution. germany, nobody knows -- angela america el has a worse relationship with him than mr. obama does. that's up in the air. >> two questions. is the idea with 67 borders with mutually agreed upon land swap is a short-term deal because the president knows there's not going to be a peace agreement and this is the fight to use now? and it's sort of a double bank shot. but wasn't there also components of that speech the president gave that were much more direct to the palestinians. it has to be a demilitarized state? there were things that were as equally directed to the palestinians in hamas that don't seem to have gotten as much attention. >> easily. a palestinian president wasn't in washington giving a speech to apack and jumping up and down. forget the joint meeting of copping where they were competing to see who could cheer more loudly for him. that's absolutely true.
most people believe the proposal of president obama is outlining is one where everybody thought we would privately go to anyway. but the reality is it's different once somebody actually says it. gwen: thanks. the supreme court is beginning to hand down a series of decisions. each one sure to anger someone. this week they touched on the limits of crime and punishment and on immigration law. joan was at the court for both provisions. first question, the prison overcrowding system. does this mean we're turning thousands of prisoners loose on the street? >> no. but california does have to reduce its prison population by about 30,000 inmates. and it was quite dramatic in the courtroom where the justices, led by in this case anthony kennedy and the liberals, ruled that california's prison system is so bad, particularly for people with serious medical conditions and mental health
problems, that it violates the constitution's protection against cruel and unusual punishment, and the only way to fix it is to get rid of the chronic overcrowding there, and that means reduce the population by more than 30,000 inmates. this is a long running problem in california. unique to california. and what prison officials there say, well, we're going to transfer some to local, to county control. we're going to give some more good time credits. but that's a lot of people to get rid of and it seems like it will be impossible not to free some people before their time has been actually served. >> is this something that will visit other states? will this case have an overshadowing effect elsewhere? >> it shouldn't. because california's situation was so unique, and what justice kennedy said in his opinion, it was really heavily criticized in the courtroom by justice scalia, getting involved in public policy issues. prisons and other institutions
that should be the domain of legislatures. but justice kennedy, who wrote the opinion said, we're not about to start stepping into other venues. this is unique to california. they have had decades to try to fix this problem. the state has been under court order for a long time to try to reduce the population. and he did spg very unusual in his opinion. he appended three pictures to it that showed the telephone booth size cages. gwen: yeah, we just showed it. >> yes. it's perfect to show how dramatic the crowding was. so, no, major. over many, many years, california has had a problem and this is very unique to that. >> can you talk about the arizona decision? what was at stake in that immigration decision and how does it project forward to the other arizona law that's much tougher and more controversial? >> yes. in fact that one was controlled by the conservative on the court with justice kennedy with him there. the other one was obviously with the liberals. what conservative majority and
an opinion by chief justice roberts said was arizona has a law that the justices upheld. if you knowingly hire any illegal immigrant, your business license can be taken away. in this case, arizona said, look, we know that usually the federal government has authority over immigration, but we fall under an exemption for certain licensing requirements, and the court agreed. this was specific to that kind of exemption for licensing deals that the state would have authority over. the law you just asked about is one that governor january brewer sign -- jan brewer signed recently that allows for police to stop -- i am so sorry. gwen: that's all right. >> i almost said inmates again. i was going to tie it back to the california system. allows police to stop anyone who might not be properly documented here in america and look for their papers. that's a big deal. it had a lot of fanfare.
it was immediately challenged by the obama organization and other civil liberties groups. gwen: that's not at all -- >> no, and in fact, to answer your question, this does not shed light on that. and chief justice roberts went out of his way to say this does not -- he did not offer any signal or hunt about how the court might rule in that case. >> what i'm so fascinated by with this california case, is there any evidence at all that shows that when you do release a widespread release of prisoners early like this, crime goes up? is there any sort of empirical evidence? >> well, it certainly points to that. in philadelphia in the early 1990's, there was a cap law that allowed people to be released just before their sentences were served just because there was a limit on how many inmates could be in the system there. justice alito said, look at all the crime that occurred after that. there was something like 79 murders after that, lots of
documented crime. what california -- california says, you know, we could have some problems like that, but they're going to monitor it in a way that wasn't monitored in the early 1990's. gwen: thank you, joan. this is a very confusing week, but we got it all in. the conversation has to end here, but it continues online on our "washington week" webcast extra. while you're there, check into the "washington week" vault where in 1994, we talked about another surprise special election that happened six months before congress changed hands. keep track of daily developments every night with me on the pbs news hour, and then join us again around the table next week on "washington week." have a good holiday weekend. good night. >> "washington week" was produced by weta, which is solely responsible for its content. >> funding for "washington week" is provided by --
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