tv Washington Week With Gwen Ifill PBS April 27, 2013 2:00am-2:31am PDT
gwen: the latest on the boston bombings. the news -- the shaky senate and george w. bush's legacy. tonight on "washington week." >> whether it's al qaeda, the fatah or two twisted perverted cowardly knockoff jihadis here in boston. why do they do what they do? gwen: two weeks later, still sorting through the why's and the how's behind the boston terror attack. while no worries spring up abroad. this time in syria. >> the syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in syria. specifically the chemical agent sarin. >> i think it's pretty obvious that red line has been crossed. gwen: yet another democrat abandons the senate. why other democrats are getting nervous. and in texas.
>> president george w. bush. gwen: the president's club gathers to open its newest library. >> the political winds blow left and right. polls rise and fall. supporters come and go. but in the end, leaders are defined by the convictions they hold. gwen: covering this remarkable week, martha raddatz of abc news, james kitfield of "national journal." susan davis of "usa today." and dan balz of "the washington post." >> award-winning reporting and 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 l of us have known someone who 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? >> additional corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by boeing. 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. once again, live from washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. it's been a puzzling week with more questions than answers on crime, punishment, war, and politics. we start with the investigation
into the boston bombings. dzhokhar tsarnaev is in prison tonight held as the prime suivg suspt in last week's attacks. and lawmakers are debating how to stop it from happening again. >> we need to understand that bin laden may be dead, but the war against radical islam is very much alive. radical islam is on the march. and we need to up our game. >> i think the world has had enough of people who have no belief system, no policy for jobs, no policy for education, no policy for rule of law, but who just want to kill people because they don't like what they see. there's not room for that. gwen: but what to do? revoke the suspects' citizenship? refuse to extend the right to legal representation? find a new way to distinguish between lone threats and al qaeda threats? all those things and more appear to at least be on the table. so what of those things is up
first? >> well, i think determining whether it's lone wolf or whether there was some distinct link to terrorism. i think that's -- or extremists abroad. that's what they're focusing on right now. i think initially they think, yes, they're lone wolves. there's no threat right now in boston. but is there a link in their homeland? was or were -- was the older brother up to something when he visited russia? i mean, my reporting is that he met with extremists at some point there. and that's what they really do want to dive into now, to see if this is bigger, to see if there are lots more lone wolves out there, to see if they all come together and spread out and do different things. gwen: let's just talk about these two brothers, the tsarnaev brothers, james. what do we know about their relationship and the degree to which this plot is something that had been hatched over a period of time? >> well, apparently, if you believe the interrogation of the younger brother in our custody badly wounded, it was only within last couple of weeks he was radicalized by his
older brother who was the brains behind this plot. i agree with martha that that six months in russia, he comes back, and suddenly starts posting jihadi videos on a youtube website. indicates something happened in that time. whether it was connected to an organized terror group for the we don't know yet. i will say what's interesting to me is he was pinged by our counterterrorism forces. he was interviewed by the f.b.i. at the behest of russia. he got on our calendar along -- gwen: which started in 2011. >> right. >> russians were concerned before he started -- >> got on the watch list with his mother and a customs and border control agent was pinged that he was returning to the country after an extended stay in russia. what it shows even when these guys are on your radar, you don't have evidence that these guys have done something wrong yet and you have limited manpower, it's very hard to get to the left of the boom as they say. gwen: -- >> you only have so much band withwhen you look at people --
bandwidth when you look at people. we focused on the mideast or pakistan, certainly not in russ yafment because they -- in russia. because they didn't consider it a threat. >> how much did we know about him as we combed back through all of this? and second is, did we really miss something? did -- does the post 9-11 system still have holes in it? >> we don't know a lot. so it's hard to say whether we missed something. but what i've seen so far would suggest that we knew these guys were -- had roots in chechnya, we know that's a conflict zone, muslim separatists conflict zone where a lot of the profile fits for these terrorists. if you look at madrid and london, and the new york bomber, they all come from some muslim area that's in a conflict. whether pakistan or in canada, this week, there was two -- arrests of two terrorists attached to the palestinian cause. so there's -- these -- this profile,hese guys fit a profile of lone wolf that get radicalized on their own and basically have a hard time assimilating into foreign society. gwen: and he lived in the
united states. they both -- both in the united states. the brother -- gwen: the younger one -- >> the younger one was a citizen but focusing on the older brother in particular. there are all kinds, hundreds of thousands of people on some of these lists. and yet a very, very small percentage, i think, fewer than 5%, are actually living in the united states. legally or are american citizens. so should the f.b.i., should someone have kept a focus more on him because he was here? >> what role do the russians play in this? they tipped us off to him, the older brother in the beginning. is russian intelligence playing a role in this or relying on u.s. intelligence? >> i'm sure they're talking to russian intelligence and a pretty good relationship in terms of counterterrorism between the russians and the u.s. but something made the russians have a red flag. and i would surmise that they probably had some sort of communication from the older brother to some sort of russian extremist or somebody in russia, some islamic compreepist there that
concerned the russians -- extremist there that occurred the russians and why they alerted the united states in the first place. probably more concerned about us -- gwen: and self-radicalization, we keep hearing about this. >> there's plenty of them. f.b.i. has done scores of stings where they sort of pick up on the internet that these guys are -- want to launch an attack and want to get involved. they send an informant in there and have -- let them spin their plot and arrest them. >> forte hood. >> forte hood another example. >> that was self-radicalization. and they're inspired. and they read the magazines. and then they know how to do it. >> the london bombers had a connection to al qaeda in pakistan. gwen: weren't necessarily -- >> you wouldn't call them self--- they sort of joined. but then they -- the know how was supplied by al qaeda core which is why the attack there was so devastating. gwen: there was another disturbing development this week with potentially wide ranging consequences.
it turns out that in syria, where tens of thousands have perished in a grinding civil war, government forces may have crossed -- a red line. red line. that color is important. this is what the president said last august. >> we have been very clear to to the assad regime and also to other players on the ground that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. that would change my calculus. gwen: now, this is what the president had to say today. >> knowing that potentially chemical weapons have been used inside of syria doesn't tell us when they were used, how they were used. so this is not an on or off switch. this is an ongoing challenge that all of us have to be concerned about. gwen: has the calculus changed or hasn't it?
>> i think the calculus has changed. but that doesn't mean we're going to go launch an attack on the syrian regime tomorrow or any time in the near future. but i think they are already leaning toward a much more assertive posture, advice vee the syrian rebellion -- vis-a-vis the syrian rebellion and doubled the amount of aid they've given to syrian troops on the ground fighting including nonlethal aid like body armor and communications and medical kits. they were already doing that. now they're being pushed very hard because they had this red line. and it seems to have been crossed. they don't want to get pushed into going too far, too fast. but they said that no options off the table. they're going to consult with their allies i was at dinner with the head of qatar and supplying arms to the syrian rebels. and he said, look, and he was just talked to obama the other day before for two hours, and said, you no, he's gone from bullets to tanks to aircraft to rockets, scud rockets and now to chemicals. he's escalating and testing our limits. and he's crossing all our red lines and until we do something, he'll keep
escalating. so i think there will be some move. the first move would obviously be to get off the dime and actually help arm the rebels and -- so they can take out -- or at least protect themselves from syrian air power. gwen: does it seem like a turning point to you, martha? >> it does not. as a matter of fact. i think it's supposed to be a turning point. and we've heard president obama talk about this again and again. there will be enormous consequences if this is a red line. but it looks to me like it's still a rather gray line. what you hear is it's got to be a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or today, a systematic use of chemical weapons. they definitely -- gwen: hearing all these caveat phrases. >> he does not want to go into syria. he does not want to own syria because he knows very well what will happen if syria is suddenly our war. >> the attacks were described as small scale. the chemical attacks. what does that mean and what -- i don't understand what sarin gas does and where it ranks in
terms of chemical weapon use on people. >> it's a nerve agent. first of all. it basically paralyzes you. and suffocates you very quickly. if you have it in large doses. small scale attacks, they looked at two attacks. one of them, i know i believe was in -- in aleppo and about 30 people died. and the other is believed to be in damascus. and i think about the same number of people. so that's what they consider small scale. but when does it go to larger scale? if it's chemical weapons is the line. if it's using chemical weapons, what does it matter how many are killed? if that's the line he has set? >> two questions, one is what are the options that would in fact significantly escalate our involvement? what are the realistic options? and second, to what extent has what has now happened affected the debate within the administration and kind of what's the nature of that debate? >> well, before, we now know that secretary of state hillary
clinton was arguing for much more robust response against assad. so was david petraeus when he was the head of the c.i.a. we don't really know what kerry and hagel are telling the president. but clearly they are being pushed toward doing more. and been pushed mostly by our allies. turkey, qatar, the gulf states, jordan, lebanon. even the iraqis are starting to fill the spillover from all the refugees from all this sectarian violence between shias and sunnis. that fault line runs through all those countries. they're being told very, very clearly that we need american leadership to step in here. and i kind of disagree with martha on this. i think they will be pushed to do more. i don't think it's going to be direct military action. but there's -- >> i think they could arm the rebels. but i should clarify that. i don't think they're going to go in there and -- gwen: no-fly zone? >> no-fly zones sound so easy. but just don't fly here. you have to take out all the anti-aircraft. you have to go in. it's kinetic. and if someone shoots, if someone shoots at us, when we're trying to take out, then
what do you do? what we don't ramse, and we don't know here is -- realize, and we don't know mere is what the strategy going forward? do you keep relying on the military and keep pushing the military as an option? gwen: one of the things you have to keep in mind it's -- domestic pressure from congress will ramp up as we keep going. thank you both. we move on to a little politics. seldom has the announced resignation after single senator sent such shivers through the establishment. but when max baucus a. prime mover on tax reform a. renegade on gun control, and one of the key senators protecting the democratic majority, said he is quitting next year, the ground shifted just a little built. why in this case, sue? >> a couple of reasons. one was a surprise. people weren't counting on max baucus to retire. the internal, hugely consequential figure in the senate for the better part -- been serving for three decades and for about the past 15 years, he's played an instrumental role in passing things from the bush tax cuts, medicare part d.
most recently to obama's health care law. his fingerprints are all over that. and so from the policy, he's been very influential. and then from the politics, he comes from montana. a state that barack obama lost by double digits as one of seven states that has a democrat in the senate right now that they have to defend next year. and all of a sudden the radar start going up again as these are the kind of states and these are the kind of races that put the senate in play. >> the white house, problematic ally? >> well, this is max baucus. it depends on who you ask. everyone has opinion about him. which is also why he saw such a reaction in washington. because he's been around so long that there's not many people that don't have an opinion about max baucus. it spans -- gwen: seven terms. >> obama may not have been able to get his health care law through him and then referred to the bill as a train wreck and would be problematic for consumers. >> so what happens without him? what about things like tax reform? what happens without a max baucus? >> and this -- we've had a lot
of senate retirements in recent years and say i'm going to use my time left to do one thing. i'm very skeptical that they're able to get it done. most recently of someone like kent conrad who retired in the laugh cycle and the budget chairman -- in the last cycle and the budget chairman and said we'll get a fiscal deal and we know how that worked out. the idea that chairman as lame ducks have a better chance of moving sweeping legislation as they wave goodbye to their colleagues and walk out the door is going to be a very tall task. >> and voting against the background checks, didn't that wear out his welcome with a lot of democrats? >> and baucus has always been -- he's always infuriated liberal democrats. the health care bill is a great example. because liberals that wanted universal health care, he was -- made sure -- and didn't have the votes to do it. so when he announced his retirement a pretty loud cheer that came from the progressive side of the democratic party who are angling very hard for brian sweezer, former governor of montana to -- schweitzer, former governor of montana to
run for that seat. he has a high national i.d. level and made a splash at the 2008 democratic convention and gave a populist, crowd-cheesing speech. gwen: who is the one in line to be the head -- >> ron wyden. >> does this put the senate more at risk? >> yes in the sense that it's a conservative state. no in the sense you can't beat somebody with nobody. and i think republicans have a very thin bench in montana. there's no obvious candidate that's going to run there. i know that republicans will say that this is a very conservative state. but it hasn't elected a democrat to the senate since 2000. so one of those states that tends to vote conservative nationwide but has progressive leaning statewide. west virginia is another good example after state like that. >> gwen: eight senators retiring and six democrats and democrats are the ones who have more difficult time defending their turf in 2014 than republicans do. what are they doing about that? >> a lot of this is roll of the dice. the democrats have had
back-to-back election cycles where they're just defending more seats. just the math is not in their favor. there's 33 seats up this next year. 21 are democrats. and a lot of them are in red-leaning states. i do think that at least based on the 2012 model a. little too early because we don't have a lot of candidates in these races yet and put a very high premium on recruiting really strong candidates early. both parties do that. but they oftentimes look for people that are already well-known in the state. maybe have already held a statewide office and can raise a lot of money. gwen: like brian schweitzer say. and i'm curious in the end what the republicans do? do they sit back and cross their arms and say happy days are here again? or do they also try to find strong candidates to grab those seats aggressively? >> the problem that republicans have had is that the majority within their grasp for at least two cycles. and their own candidates have cost -- the best reference for last cycle would be todd akin. recruiting candidates that are -- can win primaries but are
alienate a general election audience. so they are having the own sort of internal struggles between the more conservative wing and the more mainstream. and that battle still needs to play out in these states. gwen: what fun we're going to have in the mid-term elections. not often we get a peek inside a meeting of the presidents' club as our friend michael duffy called it. there are only five of them. and along with their wives in dallas this week, they provided one of the most interesting tableaux of democracy that we ever get to see. plus the remarks at the opening of george w. bush's presidential library reminded us how very different they are. >> those who made this marvelous museum possible, we thank you, especially, and we're glad to be here. god bless america. and thank you very much. >> people began to joke that i was getting so close to the bush family i had become the black sheep son. [laughter] my mother told me not to talk too long today. and barbara, i will not let you
down. >> to know the man is to like the man. because he's comfortable in his own skin. he knows who he is. he doesn't put on any pretenses. he takes his job seriously. but he doesn't take himself too seriously. he is a good man. >> one of the benefits of freedom is that people can disagree. fair to say i created plenty of opportunities to exercise that right. gwen: you were there, dan. and president bush ended that a little teary. it was quite a day. what was most striking to you? >> there were several things that were striking. not all necessarily related. the first is when you see that group of people there on the stage, you are reminded of how much history they represent. wars. recessions. scandal. success. failure. each one of those people on the stage has experienced some or all of those. you're reminded that they shaped history. and they were shaped by history. the second is in the personal
interaction, you highlight they are different. they are different people. and they have different ideology. and yet there's a respect and in some ways genuine friendship among them. president obama made the comment that until you are behind the desk in the oval office, you don't fully understand the burdens. everyone on that stage understood those burdens. understands them today. and they have some appreciation of what each of them went through. even if they might not have agreed at the time or since with all that they did. the third -- gwen: go ahead. >> the third was simply the role that the bush and clinton families have played in our political life over the last three decades. and may play in the future. gwen: describe the museum. did you get to go inside? >> i did. i took a tour a couple of weeks ago. architecturally a very handsome building. laura bush had influence in and out as far as the architecture and the texas landscape that they created around it. it's a very handsome place. the museum is very much a
reflection of george w. bush. he has said i am -- i'm content to let history judge me. and you go through the museum. it's straightforward. it's unapologetic. and yet there is a section of it called the decision points theater in which you can go in and second-guess george w. bush. you can say i disagree. and he'll come on and say, here's what i did and why i did it. >> what do you think he thinks? i mean, i know he wants history to j&j. -- to judge. but do you get a sense from being down there, what he really thinks his own legacy will be? >> i think he thinks it will be better than it was when he left office. gwen: it usually is, isn't it? >> it usually is. gwen: bill clinton. >> but bill clinton didn't have that war. >> i think the real question is how the iraq war is judged in history. he had the iraq war. he had the financial collapse in his last few months. hurricane katrina.
there were a number of things that as he left office made him a very unpopular president. and one who was judged harshly as he left. people around him believe that there is a fuller story to tell. and that the meum itself doesn't do that. but this sets in motion be a r an opportunity to -- in motion an opportunity to look at him more broadly. his initiative on hiv-aids in africa, the fact that he advocated for comprehensive -- nugely significant. the fact that he advocated for immigration reform was defeated by his own party on that. his own party has begun to come around. and approach that issue differently. so i think they believe that over a long period of time, there may be a reassessment. >> your paper reported that the relationship between him and president obama remains fairly cool. i -- maybe that's inevitable given how strongly obama was against the iraq war and how much of it defined president bush. but did you pick up on that coolness as well? >> well, on a day like this, that -- that's all hidden away.
this was a day to celebrate the opening of the library. to pay tribute to george w. bush. and every president did that. but there is no question that that's not what you would call an ongoing healthy relationship. >> what do you think bush's legacy is for the republican party? >> it's a really interesting question. and one that's undergoing some debate right now. because of immigration, for example, there's a part of the party that's saying, you know, the compassionate conservative message of 1999 and 2000 is one that we could -- should embrace and we would do better if we did. on the other hand, there are people within the party who still believe a, that because of his unpopularity as he left office, and b, because of some of the decisions he's made, he's still something of a toxic figure in a general election. and they want to stay away from him. gwen: so story is still being told about him and probably about all of it, the other members of the club as well. thanks, dan. and thanks, everybody else as
well. we've got to go for now. but the nversation will continue online. on the "washington week" webcast extra. where among other things, we'll talk about the health care bill you didn't hear about this week. and why it failed. we stream live at 8:30 p.m. eastern at pbs.org/washingtonweek. keep up with daily developments with me on the pbs newshour and we'll see you again next week on "washington week." good night. >> corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> we know why we're here. >> to connect our forces to what they need when they need
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a kqed television production it's sort of like old fisherman's wharf. it reminds me of old san francisco. and you'd be a little bit like jean valjean, with the teeth, whatever. and worth the calories, the cholesterol, and the heart attack you might have. it's like an adventure, you know. you gotta put on your miner's helmet. it reminds me of oatmeal with a touch of wet dog. i did.