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tv   Washington Week  PBS  February 10, 2012 8:00pm-8:30pm PST

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gwen: the culture wars stage a comeback on contraception in the competition for conservative voters and on gay marriage. we explain it all tonight on "washington week." >> it became clear that spending months hammering out a solution was not going to be an option. that we needed to move this faster. gwen: the white house suddenly ensnared in a fight over who pays for birth control gets yanked into the culture wars. a fight already under way on the republican presidential campaign trail. >> i know that this president will never get it. but we conservatives aren't just proud to cling to our guns and our religion. we're also proud to cling to our constitution. gwen: rick santorum with three victories on a single night surges as the latest anti-romney. >> the other thing we should recognize, as conservatives and
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tea party folks, that we are not just wings of the republican party, we are the republican party. gwen: and california just adds to the stew, as federal judges reject the state's ban on same-sex marriage. covering the week, ben reinhard of "national journal." john dickerson of "slate" magazine and cbs news. nia malika henderson of "the washington post," and pete williams of nbc news. >> award-winning reporting and analysis, covering history as it happens. live from our nation's capital, this is "washington week." produced in association with "national journal." corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> a lion is a powerful thing. it connects the global economy. to your living room.
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cleaner air to stronger markets. factory floors, to less crowded roads. today's progress do tomorrow's promise. norfolk southern, one line, infinite possibilities. >> corporate funding is also provided by -- prudential financial, boeing. additional funding is providing by the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to pbs stations from viewers like you. thank you. once again live from washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. last week we were talking about the economy, but this week republicans jockeyed for the party's most conservative voters and president obama was forced into a political corner by catholic bishops opposed to
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birth control. the president decided to try to defuse the controversy with an appearance in the white house briefing room today. >> if a woman's employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the insurance company, not the hospital, not the charity, will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge, without co-pays and without hassles. gwen: there was a religious liberty argument. there was a health care argument. and in the end they both collided. how did this whole thing blow up? >> this was an outgrowth of president obama's health care reform and democrats, particularly women, have argued that birth control should be just a basic part of women's health care. but as you said, the catholic leadership and also leadership of the republican party came down very hard on the administration because this isn't about health care, this is about religious liberty. this is about forcing church
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affiliated groups to do something that's against their teachings. gwen: ut the real danger wasn't just the conservatives who don't support the president anyway or the catholic bishops even, it was the catholic democrats who were unhappy about this. >> right. if you look at voting patterns, it's interesting because obama made gains among some of the most religious, the folks who go to church the most, but also did very well among more casual church goers. and this threatened to sort of alienate those people, which were crucial to his winning election 2008. >> let me ask then about the president's come out and said what he's said. what's your sense of how the politics work out on this now? >> i thought the president, you know, seemed pretty reasonable, though i don't know that republicans are ready to let him off the hook. speaker boehner put out a statement saying, this isn't over yet. and at the conservative political action conference,
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where the presidential candidates spoke today, none of them were ready to given credit. >> did they make the fundamental mistake that this was about kind of encroachment into your life, that this is not about reproductive issues. this is about the government getting too much into your life? >> well, right. it's really all about how the issues are framed. if you look at the issue framed as a religious liberty argument, it does seem unreasonable to force a church to do something against its teaching. gwen: and forcing an insurance company to pay for it, which is what his come pra size is. >> right. that was how the compromise put the burden on the insurance company as opposed to on the employer, catholic hospital or charity or university. >> when the speaker says it isn't over yet, why not. i guess they can keep talking about it. i know there are court challenges, three or four that are pending, but this is it, right? this is the rule. it's done? >> i think they're waiting to see if this satisfied the catholic leadership and i think
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also, frankly, the republican party saw an opening here to really create some problems for the president. >> but if it doesn't satisfy the catholic leadership, what else can they go? gwen: this afternoon bishop dolan -- archbishop dolan, who started in whole thing and had the private name of the president, came out and said this is a step in the right direction. >> what else to do next, they would have to totally retreat, right?s0 >> right. i don't think the president is willing to do that. he's sort of trying to balance his coalitions here. there are young voters and women, independents who like the idea of there being access to birth control. and more religious folks who don't like the idea of forcing a church-related group to cover something like birth control. >> any sense of what they learned about their messaging machine? it looks in some ways they got scooped by conservatives. they were able to frame this pretty early on and white house was left playing catch-up. >> right. you could think maybe that was intentional that they wanted to be able to come back and see -- show how reasonable they could
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be. because one thing that you see developing as a theme in the campaign is obama always painting the republicans as an obstructionist and willing to compromise and he likes to pitch himself as someone who is willing to compromise f that's the benchmark, he did that in this case. >> i wonder if the white house was caught off guard by the fact women's groups didn't stand up and support them. they were kind of all out there by themselves. >> it's funny the timing of it coming off susan g. komen foundation's planned parenthood thing. so that controversy kind of showed the power of women, you know, concerned about health care speaking up and this kind of showed the other side's power. gwen: you wrote about it in "national journal" this week about how four years ago the president managed to get unlikely people to support him who now were turning on him and saying this is a problem. is this more -- does this do him more damage now or potentially in the general election? >> i think that he -- like you
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said -- gwen: or republicans damage, actually, for that matter? >> he reached out to evangelicals like no democrat had before. he still didn't win that vote but he did make in-roads. as you know in a close election, some on the scale a couple points here can make the difference. i think he's opening this compromise will satisfy some of the people that did support him in 2008 and keep him on this side in general. gwen: with that the only debate this week about conservative social issues. now let's move on to the republican field where the front-runner did an interesting thing today. he spent the heart of his campaign day explaining to conservatives that he is indeed a conservative. >> i know conservatism because i have lived conservatism. i fought against long odds in a deep blue state. but i was a severely conservative republican governor. gwen: severely conservative. if there's been one consistent theme this primary season it's that republicans have not stopped looking for a fomny
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who's name is not mitt romney. why is that, john? >> conservatives are standing towards history yelling "stop." a severe conservative has a shotgun doing that. there have been 10 republicans at the top of the polls in republican field. gwen: 10? >> at one time or another, 10. people who wrrnt actually running. one of the big themes of this race has been, mitt romney, who's been athe polls more than anybody else to be sure, he's a front-runner but kind of a sickly front-runner. he had three wins but also five losses. why is that? well, on some issues like abortion and particularly in health care in massachusetts, he holds positions that have either changed or that are anti-emfat cal to what most conservative members of the party believe, so they he just don't like him. also, he didn't get to them at the gut level. if you talk to voters all over this country and in this contest so far, they talk about voting for their head or heart. voting for romney they said, i'm
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voting with my head but they really want to go with their heart. gwen: that said, it's not new people are in love with him in lots of ways but were they caught off guard by what happened, especially in colorado tuesday night? >> yes, they were caught off guard. part of one of themes -- two themes, one is anemia associated with romney. the other is there's no alternative to romney. and that's very good for mitt romney, there hasn't been a single alternative. so they thought the vote would continue to be split. and they didn't recognize it would be as bad as it was in colorado. in 2008, mitt romney played the rick santorum role. rick santorum won in colorado. in 2008, it was romney who ran, because conservatives worried about jm. thought he wasn't the real deal. so they picked romney. part of it also was they didn't play in states as they had in others. they said we did well in florida and nevada. we will do well in michigan and arizona, which are to come. so these three contests aren't as big a deem. but now they are a big deal. >> has romney changed in the
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face of these challenges or is he basically running the same campaign he always had? >> yes and no. at cpac today he mentioned the word conservative 25 times. so the message s. i'm a conservative. gwen: the speech lasted for 26 minutes. >> exactly. so what he's trying to do, he can't change too much both because that's not in his nature and also when you're one of the big problems conservatives have with him -- and when we say conservatives, it's a broad group. we're talking about vet conservative and also it's geographical. in the midwest and south they have troubles with him but they did in florida and not new hampshire and they won't in the same way in michigan. we have to be precise here. but is he trying to basically say i am one of you. here's my long record. that includes my longtime marriage, nage in my church. so don't think i'm some crazy nonconservative. i really do matchup on these things and he's got a good argument on two levels against gingrich and santorum. one is i'm a leader. have i been a leader in business and with the olympics.
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and i know the economy. i have never been in washington. those are strong. gwen: will he have a different strategy in terms of how he engages with santorum and gingrich. he went obviously really negative in florida. some indication that might hurt him if he go that's way again. >> that's right. he's on a two-front war now. although newt gingrich had such a bad night and the real worry for romney is the conservatives have been splitting the vote between santorum and gingrich, none-romney vote. but what if the results were this week is everybody coalescing around santorum? so he's taken on santorum a little bit but vaguely. they're attacking him in conference calls happening we got used to with gingrich saying he's a washington insider. he supported earmarks. and then romney making the case less specifically i'm a leader, have not been in washington, which is a shot at santorum but not specifically as you pointed out, his numbers got very much worse among independents who like him less than they used to. also a worry among conservatives, if he beats up on
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the conservative candidate too much, they might in the general vote for him, of course. they don't like barack obama. but he needs them doing more than voting. he needs them out there working hard for them. >> he said -- i think it was after his win in florida, he said, a long contest. i'm ready for that competition. this will actually make us stronger. gwen: a marathon, not a sprint, which i think was coined by michael dukakis. >> you never want to be from massachusetts and quote michael dukakis in a republican race. on the other hand, his numbers have been getting worse with independents. the longer he goes on, it also brings all of the stories into the conversation, which hurt his numbers. in talking to strategists this week, there are not just in the romney campaign, who are, of course, going to say this is all very good for him but they say a couple good things are happening. one, he's learning how to take a punch. have you to learn how to take a punch and react quickly. he did that very well between south carolina and florida. now, he took the punch and learned how to punch back and he's learning now this week how to do different things, be a
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little more personal. one of his problems, many people say, needs to speak like a conservative, not just say i am a severe conservative. the other thing is he's getting some of these issues out there he will have to face in the general. gwen: you slupet to say what you are. at some point have to be able to show it. well, there's a beneficiary obviously of the anybody but mitt movement. and that for now this week is rick santorum, who won three contests and told the loyals at the conservative political action conference we mentioned, toll them today he is their best choice. >> we always talk about how are we going to get the mod rilts? why would an undecided voter vote for a candidate of a party who the party is not excited about? gwen: good question. how did rick santorum this week bounce back? >> yeah, well, it was good old fashion political strategicy in a lot of ways. he had them very much focused on florida and nevada and went in there and stole bases. in minnesota this was close,
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borders iowa for a lot of real conservatives there. bachmann country. in missouri he had a chance to really get -- to really matchup against mitt romney. that's his argument, if newt gingrich isn't on the ballot and wasn't in missouri, he looks pretty good against mitt romney. of course, in colorado, he james dotson, top evangelical focusing on families out there on the stump with him. they showed up for him in colorado and were able to sneak that win from mitt romney. really shocking for his team. >> you traveled with rick santorum a bit. he was kind of robbed in iowa. he won but nobody knew it for several weeks. is there a message that he's been consistent with and has been ringing a bell and now has been paying off? >> i think he's positioning himself as the blue color moralist. he's got this manufacturing plan, this approach to giving manufacturing, 0% in terms of federal taxes. that's the thing he talks about, his grandfather who's a coal miner. he obviously also can get up there and say he lives the
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conservative life. he not only talks about it, he lives it. exhibit a being his seven kids, which i think six of which were out at cpac today. that's his argument. you saw him today also make the argument he is a conservative. "i am one of you." he said. i am one of you. we toiled in the vineyard. flt book of matthew. that's his argument, he's the full spectrum conservative and mitt, a victory with mitt romney, would be hollow. those were his words today. >> in the clip that we saw of santorum, he was talking about conservatives not being that excited about mitt romney. he was obviously referring to. but the folks i talked to, voters are not -- excitement for santorum is also limited partly by concerns about, can he go the distance. >> right, right. and the fact he lost in 2006 by i think 18 points. gwen: a lot. >> in pennsylvania to bob casey, who is not exactly mr.
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excitement. that is a concern about santorum. and people also, i hear people go to him as much as they agree with him, give him crosses and they say god bless you, they do worry about his viability in the long term because he doesn't have a lot of money, because he has a shoe string organization. and they also want him to be more angry. they always say that. we want you to be more passionate. we want be to be angrier. he says that he doesn't think that the republican party wants an angry nominee. they want to like the candidate. >> and he's trying to grow his vote outside of the group telling him so he has to ignore them a little bit. where does -- he's done well with evangelicals, did well in iowa. where does he go now? >> they think they're going to play in michigan. going to be there next week. it's romney's home state. but he thinks again, this blue collar message of being able to sit at the town halls with rerg americans that he thinks that is where he's got some legs. states like iowa. he was at oklahoma, texas. he was at a meeting with a bunch of preachers.
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theirs is in april, or so. and he said they were able to bring in about a million dollars after this win -- >> a day. gwen: a day. >> exactly. >> has that changed the money picture for him enough? >> it has slowly. he doesn't have a sugar daddy in the way that -- gwen: he doesn't? >> he's -- i think foster associations donated $500,000. gwen: we will tell everyone he's in the supper pac guy standing next to santorum at a lot of events. but you're right, it's not like addleson money. >> exactly. there's up-tick with some of the donors coming to the website in the couple hours after the win, got quarter of a million dollars. yeah, is he. gwen: is he vulnerable at all on the charge he's an insider? he said today he's in washington but spent the night at home because he lives kind of outside of washington.
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>> he does. gwen: this is the attack mitt romney is mounting. he's earmarked, he's defended it and he's one of the same. >> he is vulnerable to that. mitt romney is hammering on him voting five times to raise the debt ceiling. he's vulnerable to that i think in term of earmarks, something like a billion dollars. and his defense is there are good earmarks and bad earmarks. gwen: that's an argument. >> right. that's an argument but i think you're going to see obviously romney ramp up the attack machine against santorum. but they think they're ready because they have this message of him being the true conservative. gwen: thanks. there was a code to thaffle this week, three-judge panel in the u.s. court of public appeals lifted a ban for same-sex unions, met by glee in some corners and profound worry on
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some sides. sounded like a victim we one day and the next day people thinking twice. it wasn't as clear as it seems. >> victory in some sense but kind of limited to california because it was tied to the history of what happened in that state. granted same-sex couples with the right to get married and they got married and proposition 8 passed and they took it away. and it was that the court said this week was unconstitutional. here was the court's analysis. they said california is a state with domestic partnership giving gay couples all the legal rights married couples have. spouse benefits, married children, inheritance, all of that. the court said what did proposition 8 change? nothing, except the right to get a marriage license. gwen: just the word marriage. >> the trite say i'm married, right to get a marriage slines. they said even after prop 8 was -- went into effect and stopped gay marriages, gay couples could still do all of the things legally they could do before. they said really that's all that changed is the term marriage and you can't do that in the constitution because it's clear,
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they said, the court said in a 2-1 vote if the real intent of prop 8 was to put these folks in a lesser social status and the supreme court constitution doesn't allow that. the decision was written by arguably one of the most liberal judges, federal judges in the country, steven reinhard. and it seemed like it was drafted to be supreme court proof, either to make the court say, well, that's so california. we don't want to take it. or if they do grant it to say that it doesn't affect the rest of the country, so maybe we can let it pass. but the calculus there is are there five votes on the supreme court to open the door to gay marriage? this is why some advocates of same sex marriage were glad about this ruling and hope it goes to the supreme court and some advocates are fearing it might go to the court. >> but if it does go to the supreme court, wouldn't it just be about california? in other words -- >> well t. might. that's one of the things i think gay rights advocates are hoping
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for. but because of the logic you have domestic partnerships than gay marriage, denying that is unconstitutional, that could affect seven other states that have full civil unions or have domestic partnerships. that might be another reason the supreme court might want to take it and chew it over. gwen: does this mean anything at all for the obama administration? his last stance on gay marriage was his views were evolving that were on -- >> evolving. gwen: what does this mean for where he stands on gay marriage, if anything? >> first of all, i think if the court does take this case, then it's going to take it next year. so we're going to hear a lot about this after the election or maybe they would take it in the fall but they probably wouldn't hear it until maybe october or november, right about the time of the election. and all of the major presidential candidates have said they're opposed to gay marriage. the obama administration had nothing to do with this case. unlike defense of marriage cases in which the justice department has said it will continue to defend the law but no longer -- it will -- you know t. will continue to enforce the law but
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not defend it in court. gwen: what can we expect to see next, the next development in this case? >> the proponents of proposition 8, remember the state, decided not to defend this. governor schwarzenegger and still governor brown are not defending the law. so it was left to the proponents of prop 8 who got it on the ballot, they have to decide how they're going to appeal. they have the right to go to the full nine circuit court of appeals or go directly to the supreme court. there are tactical reasons for doing both but i think most of the experts think it's better for thome go to the supreme court now, because the longer they wait to get to the supreme court, more states begin to adopt gay marriage. public opinion polls continue to change. so there's a view it's better for the prop 8 advocates and supporters to get it before the supreme court. gwen: washington state this week actually just added itself to the list of states that approved gay marriage. so -- i know you don't guess what the court will do. i'm not going to ask you to. but it is widely considered that anthony kennedy becomes the swing vote again in this.
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>> yes. if you read the decision, his decisions with the ruling this week, his decisions are mentioned almost as often as mitt romney said he was conservative. so clearly steven reinhart -- this is a letter that starts -- "dear justice kennedy." so the question is, justice kennedy wrote a very important decision about gay rights in california, decision striking down the texas sodomy law. will he be consistent? that's the question. gwen: that gives you something to do next year, right? >> sure. gwen: it will bubble up. thank you, everyone. this was a full week and we couldn't get to everything that happened. we will pick up where we left off in our "washington week" webcast extra. you will be able to find us online still talking at you will find a lot of other goodies on line as well. keep up with daily developments at the pbs "newshour" and we will see you again right here next week on "washington week." good night.
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