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tv   Washington Week With Gwen Ifill  PBS  May 17, 2014 1:30am-2:01am PDT

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gwen: shifting sands at the v.a. on immigration reform and in politics. we'll cover the topsy-turvy week tonight on "washington week." >> political interests do not come, do not come before the needs of the men and women who have served and sacrificed for this country. gwen: rare bipartisan agreement. >> treating those to whom we owe the most so callously and so ungratefully is unconscionable. and we should all be ashamed. >> this needs to be a wake-up call for the department. gwen: as veterans' affairs chief eric shinseki is forced to defend the agency against charges of substandard treatment at v.a. hospitals. >> whatever comes out of this, whatever substantiated, actions will be taken. we will take actions on.
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gwen: so the investigations begin. on capitol hill, tough choices as immigration reform appears to stall. >> we've got this narrow window. the closer we get to the mid-term lebs the harder it is to get things done around here. >> i don't know whether we're going to get to it this year or not. i think we should. the appetit amongst my colleagues for doing this is not real good. gwen: meanwhile, the campaign trail heats up. with a new face from nebraska. >> this feels good. when you're -- when you're a rookie and you've never done this before. gwen: and the clintons jump into the fray after questions are raised about hillary's health >> do you think this is their way of inserting her age or her physical capabilities into the 2016 debate? >> i don't know. but if it is, you can't be too upset about it. it's just the beginning. they'll get better and better at it. gwen: just the beginning. covering the week, martha raddatz of abc news. john harwood of cnbc and "the
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new york times." molly ball of the atlantic. and john dickerson of "slate" magazine and cbs news. >> award-winning reporting and analysis, covering history as it happens. live from our nation's capital, 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's lived well into their 90's. and that's a great thing. but 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?
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>> additional corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by boeing. brigham and women's hospital. additional funding is provided by the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to to pbs stations from viewers like you. thank you. once again live from washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. nothing spells bipartisan agreement like supporting military veterans. so when reports began surfacing that as many as 40 vets may have died because they were shuffled to secret waiting lists at v.a. hospitals, it was only a matter of time before congress and the press, too, weighed in. >> have you fired any administrators who were responsible for veterans dying due to delayed care? >> we have taken action against senior leaders. >> fired? >> i would include -- yes, them being removed from v.a.
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gwen: it was also only a matter of time before shinseki himself came under fire with demands for his resignation. and there was a resignation, just not this afternoon. not just his. robert petzel the v.a. undersecretary for health announced he's quitting. what are the facts so far, martha? >> the facts are let's talk about this resignation by robert petzel. he was on the hill thursday testifying with general shinseki. they announced, the v.a. put out a press release saying he had resigned. and shinseki accepted the resignation of petzel. gwen: the white house came out with a yes, we accept it, too. >> we accept it, too. but it turns out, gwen, that he was slated for retirement this year. and his replacement had already been named. so not exactly sweeping out the old guard in the v.a. so to me, it was so tone deaf to put out a press release like that. and not mention the fact that
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he was slated for retirement. and the president had already chosen his replacement. gwen: so now what do we think is the truth of what these reports are? >> well, i think they do have to figure out what's going on in these reports. but you've heard lots of voices. hough heard whistleblowers and you've heard doctors come out from the phoenix facility. and other facilities saying yes, there was this waiting list and they tried to hide this wait to make it look like they were doing better than they were. >> martha, to what extent do these problems reflect something that eric shinseki inherited or something that's accumulated on his watch as he's gotten an increasing number of iraq and afghanistan veterans coming on the system? >> the v.a. has had trouble for a long time. once you get in the system, once you have health care, there are lots of good things said about it. but that wait started a long time ago. on the other hand, shinseki has been there 5 1/2 years. we were in the middle of two wars, why you wouldn't predict
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that you would have all these people and start taking care of it a long time ago, one young veteran said to me, it's great. they're making progress now. but it's kind of like they drove the car into the ditch and now they want credit for pulling it halfway out. so i think we all say, yes, there were lots of old veterans. can't you figure that out? and you have millions coming home. and the problem is only going to get worse. >> it seems like taking care of our veterans ought to be the least controversial thing in the world. and not a partisan issue and ought to be something that everybody can agree on. there ought to be the political will to do this and it is a chronic problem. why doesn't it get fixed? >> i think one of the things is, it's a really difficult problem. it is not easy. and the structure and the bureaucracy of the veterans administration is complex, is immense. you do have -- gwen: and largest health care system. >> you're exactly right, gwen. nation's largest health care system. >> is bureaucracy more the problem than lack of money?
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>> i think it probably is at this point. you can pour all the money into the world, but if you don't know how to use it and don't know how to spend and don't know how to analyze what you're doing and how many veterans you got and how many are coming in. and these wars produced so many wounded. generations ago would have died. you got these young men and women coming in who need care. and you still have the older veterans who do as well. >> on the question of shinseki, is it that he's doing a great job trying to fix this or that he's blameless? what's the defense of eric shinseki? a lot of people are saying he should be removed. >> they certainly are saying he should be removed. one thing about general shinseki, and i will say i've known him for years, and he's greatly admired in the military and did some things as chief of staff of the army. he's very impassive. if you saw him on the hill he's very impassive and never has a lot of emotion when -- when he said he was mad as hell he might as well have been saying i'm going next door to the coffee shop.
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that's his personality. he does not really engage with the press. he doesn't like to do that. i think people out there might be saying, who cares if he doesn't engage with the press? well, you really have to convince people what you're doing. you have to talk to the public. it's not -- gwen: you have to have a constituency. >> you have to have a constituency and i don't think he really does. gwen: what do veterans groups think about this? and is it divided generationally? a lot of older veterans think that veterans care is the best thing going. but i'm not sure if there's a difference. >> well, i think the younger veterans, we have all done so many stories on the younger veterans and trying to care for those veterans. the american legion wants shinseki out. they've had it. because if you go back, a year, two years, it's still a problem. there was still a problem then. and while they have made progress, it just hasn't moved fast enough to keep up with those who desperately need care. gwen: thank you, martha. we will be watching that.
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one of the politically puzzling questions afoot in washington is why, if it is true, that the nation is getting browner and browner, congress is having such a hard time passing even noncomprehensive immigration reform. the long answer is lawmakers have to believe they have something to gain. the short answer, is john boehner. john harwood wrote this week that at least the possibility of a deal may not be completely dead. yet. really? >> really. now, that's not another way of predicting that it's going to happen. but i think there is a possibility of it happening and here's why. you mentioned that the country is getting browner. that's definitely true. the republican party, however, is not. this is a party that's dominated by older whites. and so there's very grave difficulty moving that party, many of their members look at immigration reform as something that in effect licenses more people to come into the country, change the culture of their communities in ways that feel threatening to them.
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but john boehner knows like many republican strategists know that if they don't do something big about this problem, that they're fated to have difficulty in presidential elections as far as the eye can see. it's not such a big issue in mid terms. because older whites vote at heavier rates than hispanics, for example, do in mid terms. but in presidential races, that constituency is only going to get bigger. so the question is, can john boehner figure out a way and a moment to move his caucus, enough of his caucus to accept this happening? perhaps even to get a conference started that finishes after the election. then that is the window for him cutting some sort of a deal with president obama and the democrats. gwen: sounds like a rock and hard place the democrats are happy to see him in. >> democrats love this dilemma. and democrats are going to drive a hard bargain. they gotten a bill through the senate and they had a significant number, fewer than 20 but a significant number of republican senators including marco rubio e. the presidential
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candidate, so they've got something on the table which would provide a path to citizenship. though a long one for those 11 million undocumented already here. and they're going to insist on something that legalizes those people. and that's the tough issue to get over for john boehner. he said take a step by step approach. there's some bills that have moved through committee in the house. but none's reached the floor and the question is, is he going to put one on the floor? gwen: moug a -- moug a window? >> through mid september. the congress is going to adjourn in early october to go campaign. you got legislative time in june and july and then august recess a few weeks beginning in september and takes one of those small bills that he's got, or more, a couple of them, there's four that have moved through committee, put them on the floor. then you could begin a negotiation with the senate that might just happen to culminate in november after that election's over and maybe they could get something through then. >> what does this tell us about john boehner as a leader?
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he's got to make a call here. what will we learn whether he makes the call or if he doesn't make the call? >> if he makes this call, it's something that he has not been willing to do in his speakership so far. the only times that he'sen willing to really challenge strong opinion in his base have been in cases where he had no alternative. the fiscal cliff at the end of 2012. taxes were going to go up for everybody. he had to do something. so this would be the kind of thing that you would do if you knew that your time as speaker was short and you wanted to accomplish something great and lasting and historic. that might be the motive for him to work harder, press harder than he's been willing to do as speaker so far. >> why is this so hard? we know that there are enough votes for it in the house. and it hasn't been an issue in a lot of republican primaries. why not just do it? >> 233 republicans in the house, 12 opposed john boehner when he was installed as speaker in early 2013.
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it doesn't take many more defections to eliminate his majority in the house of representatives. if you believe and his staff says they expect him to be the eao be the speaker next year, he can't afford many more defections. so even a relatively small number of people deciding that john boehner is taking our party, a place where we don't want to go, could oust him. gwen: including it should be said his deputy, who -- eric cantor who's facing a challenge from the right in virginia. but i want to ask you about something that tom donahue, the head of the chamber of commerce, not known as a left wing organization. said this week which is the republicans can't get their act together on immigration reform they might as well not run in 2016. . >> that's the sharp version o what i was talking about before. that long-term presidential problem. in fact, one of the former top aides to denny hastert, john boehner's predecessor as republican speaker, said if we don't pass immigration reform this year, we won't win any of the next three presidential elections. because that constituency is going to get so big and they're going to develop in their gut a
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feeling that these republicans are not on their side. gwen: boy, it's amazing. really rock and hard place. ok, as primary season begins to unspool in states around the country we are on the hunt for signs. signs of what will happen to control. senate. and in general, about the health and welfare of the republican and the democratic parties. but week by week, we get mixed messages. the latest comes from nebraska. where the new republican senate nominee has been pegged as a tea party candidate. but molly ball writes that as is often the case, the label doesn't tell it all. molly? >> yeah. i think we went into this republican primary season conditioned by 2010 and 2012 to think we know what the pattern is. there's going to be a sort of establishment candidate who has maybe come up through elected office. and has the resume and is -- used to cutting deals to get things done. and then there's going to be this tea party challenger with maybe some fringe views but a lot of national support from conservatives online and so on.
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but that dynamic can't be imposed on every race. and nebraska is really interesting because the candidate who ended up winning and who is very likely to be the next senator from nebraska, ben sasse. >> who is he? >> he is -- on paper, he looks like the consummate insider. he is the -- he's a university president in nebraska. before that, he held a couple of different posts in the bush administration. he's got degrees from harvard and yale. so this is someone who's very pedigreed. and he has styled himself as sort of a wonk, a nerd. but at the same time, he's proven very persuasive to that hard right. he got the endorsement of ted cruz. and sara palin. and a whole lot of these right wing tea party groups. his opponent was the state treasurer and also someone with a history in elected office. also someone who was trying to style himself as the most conservative candidate and as an outcider. but also had a bit of a pedigree. so sort of a mixed picture. the tea party is claiming a win
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because they were mostly on sasse's side but a lot didn't get there until after he was winning. gwen: what would he be like in office? would he represent -- >> the tea party, what do you think he would be like? gwen: more ted cruz or jack kemp? >> and jack kemp is who he says his role model is. so in his acceptance speech, accepting the nomination, on tuesday night, he talked about jack kemp a lot. he talked about finding conservative solutions to problems. and saying it's not good enough to oppose bad ideas. you have to have your own good ideas. he's been campaigning very hard in nebraska on his proposals to replace obamacare. so he very much wants to fuse, i think, the sort of ted cruz and mitch mcconnell wings of the party. even though mitch mcconnell sort of was linked to some groups that opposed sasse in this primary, he spoke to mcconnell on tuesday night. he said he will support mcconnell for leader. and so he clearly wants to bridge that divide. >> molly, are we look at a situation where the
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establishment republicans have moved so far to the right that you can't tell the difference between them and the two parties and the tea party anyway? similar thing came up in north carolina when tom tillis got nominated. very conservative house speaker. and the -- rand paul backed tea party candidate couldn't get any traction. but have they merged? >> well, in a way they have. i think it's a combination of things. you're saying the establishment has changed. and i agree. the establishment has moved to meet the tea party where they are. but it's also true that the tea party's gotten smarter. the tea party's gotten more strategic. the tea party is much less popular now than they were in 2010 or 2012 even among republicans a majority say they don't support the tea party. and so the tea party has had to become savvier to sort of rebut this reputation that they've acquired of backing losers. and so i think you see that the establishment moving in the tea party's direction but also the tea party gratch tating -- gravitating a little bit. >> the democrats had hoped these primaries would have civil war fights between the tea party and establishment in
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hopes of creating he bearsing situations. has that happened yet and do we see it happening as these primaries play out on the republican side? >> well, these primary contests even if the candidate who's seen as the most electable ends up winning they're still very draining and take a lot of money these fights. the candidates get beaten up and bloodied. and there are still some on the horizon that look very divisive. this coming tuesday in georgia, is a five-way sort of free-for-all. however, the candidates that the democrats would have most like to see win that they saw as the furthest to the right and least electable, they have sort of fallen in the polls. and the most establishment oriented candidates have risen. so mitch mcconnell's primary. >> what about mississippi? >> mississippi, it seems like thad cochran's tea party challenger and that's not a while so we won't know but thad cochran's challenger has sunk and mitch mcconnell looks like he will run away with the primary. >> didn't nebraska used to
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elect democrats? and the governor is more conservative than their senate candidate. >> nebraska is an interesting place. it's similar to a lot of states that maybe used to elect conservative democrats. and now elects conservative republicans. i don't know that the state used to be liberal. but there is also an interesting tradition in states like nebraska. and i'm from out west. although i'm from nebraska's opponent colorado. nebraska is a nicer neighbor. but there is a sort of tradition of prairie populism in a lot of these states and a libertarian streak. i think the conservatives you elect out of a place like nebraska is going to be different than the kind of tea party candidate you'll get out of georgia. gwen: ok. thanks. now for the latest chapter in our favorite political soap opera. as the clintons turn. hillary clinton's visibility has taken a sharp uptick in recent weeks. and we have been following her coy avoins of the -- avoidance of the question everybody asks and even barbara walters asked on "the view" and karl rove did her a favor and questioned
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whether because of her health she's up to the job of president. and i asked bill clinton that question this week and he was only too happy to answer. >> i have to give him that credit. that embodies that old saying that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. first they said she faked her concussion. and now they say she's auditioning for a part on the walking dead. [laughter] i mean, you know, whatever it takes. gwen: john dickerson writes this week that there is apparently a requirement that the political world go periodically insane about the former secretary of state. was that what we saw happening this week? >> normally the political world is kind of making it up. hillary clinton has a corn chip and they think it is part of a strategy in iowa. this week actually there was something to hang your analysis on. because the clintons and you saw bill clinton sort of luxe -- sort of lu
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xuriating. they weren't just correcting the word saying karl rove was wrong in his diagnosis and here are the facts. they were defending her future political -- saying this is in line with a series of political attacks she's faced. and bill clinton did the same thing. he defended her as a person who has -- is not just a private citizen who's going to go off and keep her retirement. but he was defending her as somebody who's going to have a political future and was framing the response in that context. and so it felt very much like the beginning of something. a new step in the way the clintons are responding. and as the president clinton said there, they'll keep trying and they'll get better at it. implicit in that is they're going to have a chance to when she runs. >> john, i have to say i covered secretary clinton when she fell. and with president clinton saying she never low bald the american people, maybe not. but we could not get any information without dragging it
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out of them. yeah, they had a few statements that they put out. but boy, no one knew about the eyeglass thing until somebody noticed it on tv. and saw her -- so that wasn't easy to get. >> well, no. and they don't necessarily want this conversation to be happening right now. because she's in this twilight period. she's not a candidate. but she's being certainly attacked as if she were wr a candidate. so they have to find ways to respond. you don't want this story out there running especially with karl rove launching it in with lots of -- he raised lots of troubling questions. and you don't want people making up their own narrative. gwen: is it over? >> it's not over. because those who want to raise this issue want to try and do a couple of things. they want to point out that mrs. clinton will be 66 when she's president. or when she runs. and they want to raise questions about the future of her versus the past. so there's a lot going on here that will be in this bucket of issues that touch on what karl rove was talking about this week.
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>> how can the rest of us avoid brain damage following this story for three years as hillary clinton prepares to run and then perhaps runs? >> that's the tricky thing for her. is that at the moment, she is unchallenged really. on the -- the democratic party is lining up behind her. there has not been a situation like this where add party nominee rise without much of a challenge since 1908. so that makes her basically like an incumbent president. where the entire other side, the entire republican party can just attack her all day long. now, they've been doing that since she was candidate or was the spouse of a presidential candidate in 1992. but it creates a special situation for her. that she's going to have -- and the republicans are going to school on something that barack obama's team did. which was they went after mitt rosm before he won the nomination. define him early and go after him early and keep them pinned down so they can't talk about what they want to talk about. >> there's the school of thought that says karl rove is the evil genius here, right? that he achieved exactly what he set out to and a very strategic attempt to sort of poison the well that did he win
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this round? >> he might have. in the sense that everybody's talking about -- and martha brings up how difficult it was to get this information out. and all of that. on the other hand, you can have people who are looking at the republican party and saying what kind of a party is this? is it a party full of ideas or a party that's picking on hillary clinton instead of putting forth their ideas? to the extent that this defines the republican party for a moment, that might not be so great for republicans. gwen: we'll talk a little bit about what the republicans are up to including what chris christie had to say this week on our web cast tonight. you can watch my entire interview with president clinton on our web site at before we go tonight, i just want to say a few words about barbara walters. really just a few. if she had not done what she did, i could not do what i do. it's as simple as that. thank you, barbara, i hope i can make even a fraction of the impact you have. i think all the women around the table agree. don't forget, our webcast extra comes up at 8:30 p.m. where we'll also preview next week's
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primaries in georgia and kentucky. keep up with daily developments with me and judy woodruff every night on "the pbs newshour" and we'll see you next week on "washington week." good night. captioned by the national captioning institute >> corporate funding for "washington week" is provided
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by -- >> it's one of the most amazing things we build. and it doesn't even fly. we build it in classrooms and exhibit halls. mentoring tomorrow's innovators. we build it raising roofs, preserving habitats, and serving america's veterans. every day, thousands of boeing volunteers help make their communities the best they can be. building something better for all of us. >> corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by prudential. brigham and women's hospital. 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. >>
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next, the drought plus an early heat wave for a hot fire season. coming back with wes moore, a glimpse of the veterans returning home from the front lines. >> we know the bullets will stop flying, but the wars that many of us are facing as we come back home will not. a look at some key local races in the upcoming june primary.


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