tv Washington Week PBS February 24, 2012 8:00pm-8:30pm PST
gwen: romney and santorum square off. who has more to love in this expensive race? plus the slaughter in syria and the upheaval in afghanistan tonight on "washington week." >> while i was fighting to save the olympics you were fighting to save the bridge to nowhere. gwen: mitt romney punches back. >> who do you trust? who is authentic? who is believable? gwen: and it's a two-man race again this time with high stakes in romney's native state of michigan as both sides and even president obama spend like it's going out be style the >> fiscal coiffes? really? how can mitt romney beat broke where on the vital decisions player -- they're not much different. >> man who helped save my daughter was mitt romney.
>> every reno candidate every republican candidate turned their barks said let detroit go bankrupt. not him. gwen: and abroad, the brutal crack boun in syria continues. what can the international community do? >> we will be discussing a range of options from tightening sanctions to increasing humanitarian relief to helping the opposition. gwen: and afghans express fury over the burning of korans at a u.s. military base. covering the week, michael duffy of "time" magazine, jeanne cummings of bloomberg news, nancy youssef of mcclatchy newspapers and yochi dreazen of "national journal." >> award-winning reporting and nalings, covering history as it happens. nation's capital -- live 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 -- a line is a powerful thing. it connects the global economy to your living room. cleaner air to stronger markets. factory floors to less-crowded roads. today's progress to tomorrow's promise. norfolk southern. one line, infinate possibilities. corporate funding is also provided by prudential financial, boeing, additional funding is provided by the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public broadcasting and by cryptions to pbs stations from viewers like you. thank you.
once again, live from washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. you can tell we're approaching another do or die moment in this republican primary contest as the criticism gets more personal and the predictions more apocalyptic. next week's tests occur in arizona and michigan where this week there were high-minded speeches, low-minded negative advertising and one big debate. in this exchange the argument between romney and santorum seemed to be about birth control, but it really was about who do you trust? >> you said i personally opposed creptives -- crept isks but said you -- contraceptisks but voted for title x. you didn't say this was something i was opposed to. you said it in a positive light. >> i think i was making it clear that while i have a
personal moral objection to it, that even though i don't support it i voted for bills that included it and i made it very clear in subsequent interviews that i don't support that. gwen: even though i don't support it i voted for bills that included it. that's never combfment which of these guys is punching through? >> punching through is a perfect metaphor. whether either of them will be standing as tall on wednesday morning when these two states begin voting next week is the question. just to paint the picture fast, mitt romney or his super pacs will spend close to $2 million on negative ads attacking santorum. santorum will come back with about a million. and just to make it interesting and issues -- bypass -- bipartisan, barack obama is running ads attacking them.
romney and paul put santorum in this rhetorical pincer movement and he didn't quite know thousand handle it, spending on contraceptives and education. i think it may be the words "i took one for the team" may be carved on his political headstone. gwen: and at the same time romney is the one everybody is firing at so how is he doing? >> you would think he would have gained some momentum. the talk of the convention increased. romney made some i guess mistakes that continue to raise questions about his public performance simply as a candidate. he proposed a new corporate tax plan on wednesday but didn't really bring it up that night in the debate which was a great opportunity to do that. he gave a pretty well publicized speech today at the detroit economic club, but there was no news in it. he did finish the speech with a
comment that was a motown pander saying that his wife owned two cad i can aks. that's -- cadillacs. that's going right into the mitt romney hope chefment gwen: and there was a lot more written today, the fact that he was in ford field with tens of thousands of empty seats. >> it's a reminder that even if he does well on tuesday he still faces questions in the party about whether he just simply has -- you know, nothing breeds success in politics like success and he hasn't had a lot of both yet. until he does there are going to be questions about his status as the front runner. >> michael, there is no indication that newt gingrich or santorum will quit, and so he will continue to face these sort of challenges as he goes forward and, you know, there's talk of a late entry, brokered convention shall all of this.
what is your take? >> i don't think most people who are running expected them to be there 60 days later. there are 13 contests in the next two weeks. we are already looking at a scenario where this is going to go almost no matter what happens into april. the delegates from here on out are manned -- handed out proportionally, which means you can stay in and play. and because so much outside money is coming in, there is no incentive to quit either, which means this is going to go on much longer than anyone expected. >> so, michael, is ars -- arizona or michigan the more important or neither? >> michigan is the bigger state so if -- in that respect it has more people in terms of delegates. but it's the state where romney comes from so he kind of needs to win it. he won it last time. as gwen said at the top it's a do or die state for him.
on the other hand, arizona is perhaps in play in the fall because the obama campaign is making a big effort there. they have to make sure they contest there now. it's important to nose -- note that obama is working there at the same time. >> and that statement about he let detroit go bankrupt. i can't imagine that plays well. how do you disavow that and not have the flip-flopper clarge come back on new >> the republican party in michigan is very, very conservative. controlled by its tea party faction. they hate the bailouts, hate the car company rescues. it's almost table stakes to get in, you have to be against it to get in in that state. gwen: and governor romney is a very well-known name there. you can't dismiss that completely. but a campaign like that doesn't come cheap and this year the money race is telling us a lot of what we know. who is guy -- buying and who is
selling? >> well, it's funny, as a campaign mitt romney is buying and as a campaign he's about the only one still in the game of buying. when you spoke of, when we talked about them not leaving and you mentioned because they can get these sugar daddies to come in, gring -- gingrich's campaign and rick santorum's campaign have both really been floated by these wealthy backers. under any normal political darwinian theory they would both have had to go as a wicker species -- weaker species, but not this cycle. so it's going to go on longer, as long as the rich people want to write the checks. gwen: i spent the weekend in arizona where the only advertising on the air was a pro-romney ad attacking 12340er78 -- santorum. gingrich wasn't on the air.
paul wasn't. so strategy still exists even with these outside groups. definitely. and we -- i -- all of the candidates in the weak after -- week after florida pulled back to try to do fundraising, to try to get their own campaign accounts somewhat in order and speaker gingrich hit washington state. you know, it's little-noticed up there, trying to maybe pick off something but he's putting a lot of emphasis down in georgia on super tuesday to make the argument that i won my home state. santorum obviously chose michigan as opposed to arizona because it would be such an embarrassment to romney and because that is such a conservative republican -- gwen: and it's not a winner-take-all delegate process? >> the delegate process is really complex. in many ways it is a winner take all because they're playing games with the way they say proportional, but it would
be a huge blow to romney. if he use -- loses michigan that campaign is going to go into one heck abe tailspin. >> romney's got a broader base of backers but are his funds unlimited? or does he face ceilings and challenges? >> he definitely does of. you could see he was one who pulled back and did a bunch nch -- of fundraisers in part because he is spending so much more. he has spent $55 million. if you look at santorum and gingrich together they get to 21, so he's spent twice as much out of his own account. gwen: on what? >> he's buying heavy loads of advertising. he's built a whole campaign because he has a staff. if you go out with rick santorum there are four people around him and that's kind of it. so he's built a complete operation, and it costs a lot of money, and so he does have
the very loyal backers who have been with him for nine years. they have been writing checks to extend his presidential dreams. those people aren't going anywhere. >> when you talk about he just spent $55 million, a staggering sum be money, is that what he spent or what the super pacs that back him have spent on his behalf? right, no that's what he spent. the super pacs spent $25 million. romney alone is like give the candidates a $2 million edge over the super pacs and that won't last long because all of them are going to start relying more on the super pacs to run their ads >> i'm curious where does the obama financing compare to the republicans? >> in classic obama style he's completely blown nem -- them out of the wear. he's spent over $70 million. he's spent all that without
going on air very much. so obama's taking a lot of his money and he is building the infrastructure. gwen: well, that's the question. the infrastructure for the general elections, that's what incumbents do. is anybody else going to have anything left over to build infrastructure for the general election? >> it does ant pear at this point that this republican primary has the same dynamic the democratic primary did four years ago which was that obama got strongser as the primary went on. if romney remains the front runner he's getting weaker, not stronger and we haven't seen that light go off where all the small donors enter the race. that grass-roots energy. we haven't seen that yet. gwen: why do these individuals, only a handful of them, write the big checks to the campaigns? >> some of it is personal loyalty. romney has old bain people, the
staples people he helped when he was at bain. edelson in las vegas, the big donor to gingrich, they have israel plus a friendship. there are 14 millionaires in the game right now and some of them do it because they can the gwen: isn't that why rich people do -- that's why any of us do what we can do. now on to the standoff in syria with 6,000 syrians dead. the united nations said president bashar assad is responsible for a wide spread systematic violation of human rights. the president spoke about it late this afternoon in the oval office. >> we are going to continue to keep the pressure up and look for every tool available to prevent the slaughter of innocents in syria. it's important that we not be
bystanders during these extraordinary events. gwen: not be bystanders in these extraordinary events. nancy, what are the alternatives to that? >> not many. there is no u.n. mandate that allows nor military intervention because russia and china have blocked that resolution and up to now the united states has said they will not arm the syrian opposition because they don't know who they are. but obama's comments suggest that the united states is starting to consider that. but even that is not a great aption. there are no good options here. it's arguable whether that is even a viable bad option. who do you arm? could carm -- arming them prolong the conflict? how do you get the arms in and how long does the fighting then go on? and it doesn't dwarnee -- guarantee that that fighting can end. so the administration is presented with a lot of bad options and what we were
hearing from the administration this week is a signal that they're starting to consider arming them, which was considered inconceivable just a few weeks ago. gwen: a year ago we saw dictator after dictator fall in the arab spring and supposedly democracy was sweeping the middle east. assad has gone nowhere no matter how much people ratchet up the pressure on him. why not? >> there are two threads that ran through the countries where the dictators fell. one was western or foreign intervention. number two was defections in the military. assad hasn't had to deal with either one. his military is the 13th largest in the year and the generals are the same minority sect as him. we've seen defections but not enough to start the domino effect of the collapse of the army. it remains strong, remains armed and according to the director of national intelligence he's, 80% of his
infantry is out fighting this opposition. western intervention is also a key part of this. as you have seen this week, that's not a viable option either. there was a conference in tunisia today and nations came together and tried to pre -- present a united front and what we saw is that they are really divide on everything from whether you intervene militarily to even arming the rebels. >> you said at the top that russia and china are opposed in the -- to the u.n.-sanctioned intersection. -- intervention. is it in the u.s. interest to intervene especially what's happened in iraq and afghanistan? >> you could argue what we're seeing it is a proxy war between the united states and iran and this would be a way to weaken iran. iran use syria to get arms to hezbollah so in that sense
certainly beneficial but you're right, we never know what's coming next, and the instability, can we afford that in a country that's a keystone in terms of shi'ia-sunni relations? at the same time can we morally afford to allow the killing of civilians every day? homes have been bombarded for three weeks straight. politically can we say as a nation that we're going to stand idle while this is happening even as we say we support people who rise up and try to bring democracy to their countries. it's become such a complex issue for the obama administration. >> can you imagine this becoming something like libya where the u.s. is basically dragged kicking and screaming by other countries? could this be something like libya? gwen: it does begin to sound familiar like we've been here before. >> it does. there was a similar meeting a
year ago about plib -- libya. without the united nations vote i think it becomes dufment what we're seeing is the consideration of arming the rebels as one effort to get in but in terms of military intervention those also are bad options. the naval blockade would be off because russia has a port in syria. an air strike would be difficult because how do you strike a sovereign nation without that mandate. militarily, the lack of a u.n. vote sort of limits the united states having to intervene fully. could the united states be dragged in in terms of humanitarian and weapons support and find itself supporting groups it doesn't know about because of the international pressure? sure, and that presents its own complexity. gwen: another hot spot that presents difficulties for the united states is in afghanistan where this week's violent outbreak of protests came in apparent retaliation for the
burning of religious materials including korans on a u.s. military base. leon panetta and others apologized but the incident unmasked some real tensions in our relationship with afghanistan even as we try to with draurks yochi. >> it does. you've seen three things come to the fore, each one more depressing than the other. we're not popular. the crowds are chantsing "death to america, america out," that's one thing. the other is that there is more sympathy for the taliban than we realize. we think of them as a barbaric group that they want out of power, which is true but people remember that as a less corrupt period. and you see willingness on the parts of afghans each month to turn their weapons on the americans fighting beside them. that's a hore -- horrible
thing. gwen: what actually happened at the u.s. base with the materials? >> it's a bizarre case. it's a major prison on a major base. there was a concern prisoners were using religious materials to send messages back and forth so they confiscated the materials and burned them all. in that stack were korans and no one seemed to have noticed. and it's blown up. >> well, if we are leaving, are we leaving a country that can govern itself? you know, as we see these things, the afghanistan police and military are
and yet they get worse and worse. >> you have seen them frankly try to control them in the worst possible way, to shoot into the crowds. you've had 24 people killed roughly. mainly because people come closer to president karzai's palace, his guards shoot into the crowd. you are seeing a very fragile, very scared government lashing out nowhere near the scale of syria or libya but their first reaction is fire into the crowds. >> you know, yochi, i was talking to some of my afghan friends this week and one thing they said was 11 -- they couldn't believe that 11 years into the war the united states after all their training was making these basic respects of not respecting the islamic holy book. what are you hearing? how are they explaining this mistake this late in the war? >> there say basic level -- level of knowledge plus a message of fear. if you are really afraid of the messages being passed you want to attack that. 2011 was the only year in five
years where fewer americans died than the previous year. good news. then you have the images of the marines urinating on the boirveds the dead taliban. you have the burning of the koran. so it's a little bit of good news and then much bigger bad news. >> you said there are many people in afghanistan who want the u.s. to leave. there's obviously a lot of people in the united states who would like to leave. setting aside the question of why we just can't leave, do you expect it is possible sometime in the next year or even before the next election that the timetable in afghanistan could change, accelerate to withdraw? >> i do. right now the timetable is 20,000 leave this year and the remaining stay until 2014. but there is no question the white house sees this war as a political liability. they don't think we're winning, at best holding steady. the war is unpopular. we're bankrupt, it's expensive. it's hard to see how we keep that many u.s. troops as long
as we said we would. gwen: and the troops fear they're in danger. that's why we've seen so many quick apologies this week. >> exactly. and what we've seen is instead it blows up even more than it might have because now it's publicly acknowledged to have taken place. gwen: do the replies work? -- apologies work? >> no. gwen: our conversation has to end for now but it continues online on the "washington week" webcast extra where we talk about everything we didn't get to here, including what's next in one other hot spot, iran the we'll be keeping track of the primaries next week in combrars and michigan -- arizona and michigan on air and on line. and happy 50th anniversary to klru in austin. you were a great host last night. it was a funky party. and we'll see you next week on
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