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tv   Washington Week With Gwen Ifill  PBS  July 27, 2013 2:00am-2:31am PDT

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>> the president and congress prepare for the battles to come. the justice department breeds new life into the voting rights law. the n.s.a. leaker tries to get out of the moscow airport, and anthony weiner says, oops, i did it again. i'm pete williams in for gwen ifill on "washington week." >> i say to these members of congress, you can't just be against something. you got to be for something. pete: the president draws battle lines against republicans and they push back. >> the speedster bounds to be all sizzle. at some point campaign season has to end and the working with others season has to begin. pete: but are both sides forgetting that americans are fed up with washington? the attorney general flexes his muscles on voting rights. >> even as congress considers updates to the voting rights act in light of the court's ruling, we plan in, the meantime, to
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fully utilize the law's remaining sections to make sure the voting rights of all american citizens are protected. pete: a new chapter in the saga of edward snowden. >> he's not a dissident or a human rights activist. mr. snowden alkt to be returned to the united states where he faces felony charges. pete: is it straining u.s. relates was russia? will the latest admissions of anthony weiner doom his comeback? >> there's no question that what i did is wrong. this behavior is behind me. i'm apologized to my wife, hue mafment pete: if his wife can get over it, should new yorkers, too? >> i love him. i have forgiven him, i believe in him. pete: john harwood of cnbc and "the new york times," carrie johnson of npr, martha raddatz of abc news and molly ball of "the atlantic." >> award-winning reporting and
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analysis, covering history as it happens, live from our nation's capitol, this is "washington week" with gwen ifill. corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> we went out and asked people a simple question -- how old is the oldest person you've known? we gave people a sticker and had them show us. we learned a lot of us have known someone who has lived well into their 90's, and that's a great thing. even though we're living longer, one thing that hasn't changed -- the official retirement age. the question is, how do you make sure you have the money you need to enjoy all of these years? >> additional funding for "washington week" is provided by the anenberg foundation, the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs
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station from viewers like you. thank you. once again live from washington, sitting in for gwen ifill this week, pete williams of nbc news. pete: good evening. president obama this week challenged congress to follow his path for fixing the economy and the republicans said forget it. the president took his case to three cities across america and said improving the lives of middle-class americans is his highest priority. >> if you're willing to work with me to strengthen american manufacturing and rebuild this country's infrastructure, let's go. if you've got better ideas to bring down the cost of college for working families, let's hear them. if you think you have a better plan for making sure that every american has the security of quality affordable health care, then stop taking meaningless repeal votes and share your concrete ideas with the country.
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[cheers and applause] pete: but the response from republicans was curt. >> the president says he's going to go out and pivot back to jobs. well, welcome to the conversation, mr. president. we've never left it. >> look, this president is a terrific campaigner. we all recognize that. he's got away with words, too. pete: this all comes with the backdrop of the new poll from nbc news and the "wall street journal" showing not only congress's disapproval rating soaring to an all-time high, but also the president's disapproval rating hovering near his highest as well. that same poll showed just 29% think the country's on the right track. that's the lowest in almost two years. so, john, any reason to think the white house or congress will do anything differently? >> well, the president said let's go to congress. it is clear from the bytes that you just played from john boehner and mitch mcconnell there's not a lot of giddy upfor the president in this current congress. but the public is disgusted with washington.
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they have seen a president get re-elected. there was a brief honeymoon. you had the fiscal cliff deal. the president was over 50%. over the last several months you've seen not much happen. did have an immigration bill get through the senate, stalled in the house, but a lot of fighting, a lot of scandal talk and not results that the american people have been looking for. and so 12% approval rating for congress, 45% for the president, both of those are lame numbers. the congress number is the worst that we've ever seen in the nbc journal poll. what the president is trying to do with these speeches is move the needle, change the nature of the conversation in advance of these big fights that we have coming up in the fall over spending on the budget, continuing resolution or perhaps a new budget, new spending bills. and we've got to raise the debt limit again. and if we don't do that, we're going to be back in the potential for a debt crisis like we had in 2011. >> he seemed very eager to take this message outside of
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washington. but did the needle move? >> no. and it's not likely to move very much in part because the president's goals are somewhat limited in the sense that, you know, for the current standoff heading in the fall, what he's really hoping is not to hurt the economy. he doesn't think he can get much of anything. i talked to chuck schumer, the senator from new york, this week and he said realistically none of these things are going to pass the congress this year. but the president is playing for the long term, and what he's got to hope is that he can get through the debt ceiling, which is something that republicans backed off on early this year. he hopes that they'll do it again. they say they won't. and hopes he can get through the spending fight. you've got some republicans now saying, well, we're going to shut down the government if they don't defund obama care. the administration is not going to do there. >> are republicans actually prepared to do that? do you think they'll really shut down the government? >> no. i think there's a lot of bluffing going on. you have some on the right who
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are looking for a cause to rally themselves around right now, including marco rubio, who pushed through that immigration bill that generated some flak for him on the right. but you've got other very valuable republicans stepping up and saying as richard burr, the senator from south carolina, said that is the dumbest idea that's come down the pike. when a government shutdown ends we're going to come back into session. barack obama is still going to be president and it's not going to go anywhere. >> when we watch this, nothing really ever changes. i don't see how the needle does move. so what does the president do differently? what do the republicans do differently to try to change those poll numbers? >> they are not doing much differently. what the president is trying to do is do it with more consistently, a louder volume outside the country. but when you talk to people at the white house -- >> and you get status quo for that. >> well, you do get status quo. but part of their belief is if he spends every minute of the
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rest of his term, like he says he did in a speech this week in illinois, making this argument, maybe they can influence the argument -- even if they can't achieve it, more spending on infrastructure, education, job training, manufacturing. even if they can't achieve it during barack obama's presidency, they're hoping that's going to seep through around the country perhaps for a future president, future congress. pete: ok. john, thank you very much. it was exactly one month ago that the u.s. supreme court struck down the heart of the voting rights act, one month ago this week. and exactly one month to the day attorney general eric holder announced an aggressive move to keep the law alive. he told the national urban league that the justice department would go after texas for the way it drew new boundaries for its congressional and legislative districts. >> we believe that the state of texas should be required to go through a pre-clearance process whenever it changes its voting laws and practices. [applause]
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now, this is the department's first action to protect voting rights following the shelby county decision. but it will not be our last. my colleagues and i are determined to use every tool at our disposal to stand against discrimination wherever it is found. pete: governor rick perry of texas said the move showed utter contempt for the legal system. but carrie, did the supreme court leave the voting rights act alive after all? >> the act is alive but it's limping. as you said a month ago in this case involving shelby county, alabama, the heart of the law was gutted, the formula for covering states and requiring them to get federal permission before making election changes is now essentially null and void. but two important sections of the law remain. attorney general eric holder this week signaled he's going to take full advantage of both of those. what's going on here is that
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plaintiffs in the state of texas, latin american groups, african-american groups and other lawmakers in the state who want to protect minority voting rights, have sued the governor over there redistricting plan. the justice department says it's going to intervene in that case. and if there is a finding of intentional discrimination under section three of the voting rights act, a part that's still intact, the justice department wants texas to have to serve 10 years in the federal penalty box before it makes any kind of election changes whatsoever. it's got to get eric holder's blessing and whoever takes that office afterwards pete: so they would get the same kind of pre-clearance they would have gotten before it was struck down. instead of being automatic you'd have to go to the court and get the judge's authority to do that. >> there are a couple of important things heerm. one is the old part of the law that's been struck down put the burden on the state. now the burden is on the u.s. government or the challengers, the minority plaintiffs. the second thing that's going on here, pete, is that you have to
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prove intentional discrimination. that's a really high bar. the justice department thinks it can do it because there's findings of fact in a different case that went their way. the third thing that's going on is that the penalty may not be as vast as it could have been before. in other words, a judge could say, i'm going to require texas to undergo federal scrutiny, but only for five years or only for three years or only for statewide changes, not every single electoral -- >> so the justice department feels pretty good about the likelihood of success, correct? but if not, then what happens next? >> if not, it would be a huge blow not only to civil rights groups, but also to the prestige of the justice department in a lot of ways. this is a personal crusade for eric holder, the attorney general, and it's very important for the obama administration as well to stand behind minority voters, especially because, martha, we saw only last year long lines at the polls, lots of very controversial voter i.d.
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laws and what some people consider to be voter suppression efforts, particularly in minority communities. pete: carrie, on the point that perry made, which shows contempt for the supreme court, was there anything about what the justice department did that in fact was a slap at the court, or are they simply using another avenue that was left open to them by the court to try to achieve the same goal? >> john, the latter. this was an avenue that the supreme court left wide and clear and even the person of james sensenbrenner, a republican from wisconsin, who helped reinvigorate this law and reauthorize it back in 2006 came out and said that the attorney general was working the way he should and that voter suppression remains a problem and that exercising these parts of the voting rights act were totally legitimate. i think rhetoric from texas about doing an end run around the supreme court and disrespecting people in texas was more of a cowboy hat rhetoric than a reality. >> in fact, the supreme court's problem was that the old law,
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the old map, was not up to date. so isn't this system -- you have to get permission from a judge, presumably you have to show up-to-date evidence. >> absolutely. you have to demonstrate a recent history of intentional discrimination. so in some ways people think congress will not be successful in re-writing the old part of the law that's been struck down. but this could be a new tool moving forward. >> we saw all these problems at the polls in 2012. but there's a feeling that it actually invigorated a lot of minority voters and got them angry, got them out to vote. how much of this do you think is political and what do you think is the political upside or downside? >> i think there's a significant element in this administration, the first african-american president, the first african-american attorney general, that they want to put a lot of power behind these kind of statements. but they really do believe in protecting minority voting rights as well. finally, picking a fight with texas is not a bad fight for this administration. you know, they have picked a fight with texas before, and i think they're going to do it again over the texas voter i.d.
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law. also important to note that as eric holder was announcing this, the state of north carolina passed one of the most restrictive electoral laws in the country, something that would eliminate early voting in many periods, eliminate same-day registration at the polls, force people to line up and even once they've lined up on the actual election day, if the lines are long, this new measure says that state officials can just decide to close the polls. >> as well as photo i.d.'s. >> absolutely. photo i.d.'s, but not student i.d.'s. >> carrie, thank you very much. this week brought another odd twist in the saga of edward snowden, the n.s.a. leaker who's been holed up in the moscow airport for more than a month now. his lawyer brought him a copy of the famed russian novel "crime and punishment" whose main character commits a crime for what he believes is a higher purpose were ends up sentenced to siberia. massachusetts that, is he closer to get -- martha, is he closer to getting out of moscow?
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>> honestly, he must be closer to getting out of that airport, but i don't really know where he'll end up. i think during this week we all heard his lawyer in russia talking about the fact that he would probably be released any day. he wants temporary asylum. the russians have kind of given this mixed message. if he stops leaking material perhaps he can stay. on the other hand, president putin does not want to interfere with whatever relationship remains with the united states. so i think it's possible he could get out of the airport soon, but i think they do not want him staying there permanently. this is a problem the russians don't really want. on the other hand, i don't see them carting him on to an airplane and sending him home. >> go ahead. >> how does this impact the relationship between the u.s. and russia, which is already very rocky? >> i think that's the key point. russia is playing kind of both sides of this. the administration is obviously kind of thrown hints out there that a summit in the fall might
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be cancelled. others have talked about the olympics, you know, the united states shouldn't go. so the threats are definitely out there and they are very clear. but putin on the other hand, we don't obviously have an extradition thing going on with the russians so they would have to deport him. so he's in a difficult position. and snowden has already said he wants to stay there, he wants to get a job, he's learning the language, he's reading "crime and punishment" so he can be familiar with russian literature. >> given all of that, the pressure on the relationship, the pressure that the united states has put on lat tin american countries, when you think about all the factors, what are the chance that's snoweden ends up back in the united states and goes to trial? >> i actually think they're pretty darned slim. i think he'll go elsewhere and eventually somebody will take him. eventually he'll fly somewhere. there's so much drama. >> i don't see an outcome where the russians put him on a plane back to the united states. >> i don't see that. i just don't see that happening.
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they've never extradited anybody. they're not going to do that now. and that's pretty much what it would take, having security officials go in there and put the guy on a plane and i don't see putin going that far. but snowden has really become this story. the attention has really drifted from actually what he exposed to him as a personality. >> and speaking of what he exposed, we do have an ongoing controversy now over the surveillance that snowden exposed. there was a vote in the house this week. what do you think we learned from that? >> a very, very close vote in the house with representative justin amosh and an amendment saying let's do away with the funding for portions of the n.s.a. surveillance. very, very close vote, very mixed vote. lots of democrats, lots of republicans. i think about 40% of the republican conference voted to get rid of the funding. so it narrowly missed passing.
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nancy pelosi put her showled tore the wheel on that. >> they said if you send him back here we won't torture him or subject him to the death penalty even if he faces new charges. is that going to make adifference? >> it's like back at you, vladimir putin. what snowden has been saying is, look, i can't go back. you have to protect me because they'll torture me, put me to death. eric holder made very clear that would not happen. so once again the ball is in the court of the russians, which is why they don't really know what to do with the ball at this point. pete: martha, thank you very much. finally tonight, democrat anthony weiner's campaign for mayor of new york got even stranger this week when he was forced to admit that his online sexual value yanses, the very conduct that forced him to quit congress two years ago actually continued for another 14 months after he resigned with as many, he now says, as three women. even so, he insists that his
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misbehavior is behind him and that he's not dropping out. >> i am waging this campaign on a bet, and the bet is at the end of the day citizens care more about their own future than about my past with my wife and my embarrassing things. pete: add together the drama of his disclosures was the presence of his wife, a longtime hillary clinton staffer and advisor. she spoke up to say she forgives him. >> anthony's made some horrible istakes both before he ran for congress and after. but i do very strongly believe that that is between us and our marriage. we discussed all of this before anthony decided to run for mayor. pete: so molly, lucky you. at this point, what is left of his campaign? >> pete, i believe the technical term is a wing and a prayer. you know, he called it a bet.
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i think it was a gamble for him to ever get into this race. he was gambling that more things like this wouldn't come out. part of his explanation, if you can call it that -- he didn't actually explain very much, if this in fact can be explained. part of his explanation was, well, i told you this was going to happen. you asked me before if there were any more women out there and i said there probably were. so who is even surprised by this? but i think it was news to a lot of people and we had, you know, this woman that he had this online relationship with after he resigned going on television, calling him perpetually horny. i mean, none of this is mayoral in stature, if you will. [laughter] and so, you know, the problem is that even if people believe him and accept that it is some kind of compulsion, that makes it even harder to believe that he'll ever stop. >> could he have just said that? did he handle it in the right way? could he just have said i have
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an ongoing problem and i'm going to try to get help for that, instead of saying it's behind me, since he had already said that? >> i think it might have been about as believable to say that. that doesn't necessarily mean that it's mayoral, that people would want a sort of admitted continuous online sex addict in gracey mansion in new york. >> one of our colleagues from "new york" magazine this week wrote a piece saying we're all shocked and outraged by the behavior and stand liesed by the news. -- scandalized by the news. but for anthony weiner, that may have been a step on part of his plan, that is for a comeback, that he knew that stuff like this was going to come up. and he might have known that this campaign wasn't going to be successful, but he's playing a longer game trying to put things behind him to preserve his political future. does that make sense? >> i don't think this is all part of a grand strategy. what we're seeing is certainly this press conference, that he
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didn't look like he knew waves doing. does he want a political future? sure, that's why he's running. >> can he? >> i think part of the problem with his candidacy is that he didn't have a compelling way to explain what he was offering besides a political future for anthony weiner. >> what do you think the impact is going to be on eliot spitzer, who has resigned over his own set of scandals and is now running in new york again as well? >> if anything, this has taken the spotlight back off of eliot spitzer, who, in turn, stole the spotlight from anthony weiner when he jumped into the race. it kind of makes spitzer look mild by comparison, because we haven't had new eruptions, revelations from spitzer. there's such a circus-like atmosphere to new york politics right now. i do think voters are considering the races and the candidates individually, but you've got to think the less front-page "new york times" headlines about your sex life, the better you're doing as a candidate. that's a good rule of thumb. >> weiner's latest disclosures
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add to the announcement by the san diego mayor that he will seek behavioral therapy in response to allegations of sexual harassment. the house minority leader, nancy pelosi, talked this week about men behaving badly. >> the conduct of some of these people that we're talking about here is reprehensible. it is so disrespectful of women. and what's really stunning about it is they don't even realize it. they don't have a clue. and it is really -- if they're clueless, get a clue. if they need therapy, do it in private. >> and it always seems to be men. >> well, there aren't that many women politicians. i hesitate to say that women are not capable of this kind of behavior, because i think women are capable of anything. but it is men behaving badly. i think this all contributes to the public's cynicism about all of this. they have to think, well, everybody's doing it. when someone can come out and say, well, i'm going to be cured in two weeks of this pattern of
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behavior that multiple people have attested to, this disgusting behavior, i'm going to come back and serve you honorably? i mean, does anybody believe that? >> of course, fillner and weiner are both former members of nancy pelosi's cralk cuss. >> well, did it make it better or worse? >> i think there's always been this uncomfortable dynamic where we see politicians being criticized for dragging their wives up onstage the way eliot spitzer did. she didn't sperks but she wordlessly stood by her man, and the sense that that's torturing the poor woman. but there's a weird rorschach test with huma, where a lot of people see her as a victim. but since she did speak up for herself and since she did make a vocal case for his candidacy, others see her as sort of a mastermind in this situation. that she's almost putting him up to it, especially with her connection to the clintons. theories about the hortag
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clintons. >> molly, thank you. thank you all. finally tonight, we remember a legendary journalist who left us this past week. white house reporter helen thomas covered 10 presidents, beginning with j.f.k. during her nearly 50 years in washington. she broke many barriers among the way, among them becoming the first woman bureau chief for u.p.i. and the first female of the white house correspondents association. helen thomas was 92. that's it for tonight. this reminder -- gwen will be online next thursday for her monthly web chat and she'll be joined by a special guest, dan balls, the author of that new chronicle "the collision." thursday at 1:00 p.m. eastern. go to our website, if you'd like to submit a question. our webcast extra is streamed live 8:30 p.m. eastern, where we'll hear a firsthand account of mar martha raddatz to her
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refugee camp visit. gwen is back at the table next week on "washington week." good night. captioned by the national captioning institute >> corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- prudential. 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.
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