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tv   Tavis Smiley  WHUT  December 20, 2011 7:00pm-7:30pm EST

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captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> ifill: president obama and house speaker boehner dug in their heels today and refused to break a stalemate over the payroll tax cut. good evening. i'm gwen ifill. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight, we get the latest on the political showdown in washington from todd zwillich of "the takeway" on wnyc. >> ifill: then, exactly two weeks before the iowa caucuses, we update the 2012 race for the white house with stuart rothenberg and susan page. >> woodruff: we assess the heightened sectarian tensions in iraq and look at what's left behind for iraqis after the last u.s. troops pulled out.
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>> ifill: margaret warner examines why u.s. intelligence didn't know that north korean leader kim jong-il had died. >> woodruff: we conclude our economist film project series with the story of a brutal african warlord turned christian evangelist. >> i killed their brothers, killed their sisters, ripped them, crippled them. they are right not to forgive me. >> ifill: that's all ahead on tonight's newshour. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: moving our economy for 160 years.f,bns e te nghe cthinconae bnsf, the engine that connects us.
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intel. and by the alfred p. sloan foundation. supporting science, technology, and improved economic performance and financial literacy in the 21st century. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> ifill: the u.s. house balked today at approving a short-term extension of the payroll tax cut. that touched off a new war of words between the president and the speaker of the house, with each side demanding the other give ground. >> brown: the challenges flew
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back and forth between the white house and the capitol. >> i'm calling on the speaker and the house republican leadership to bring up the senate bill for a vote. >> i need the president to help out, all right? >> brown: president obama and house speaker john boehner spoke separately, minutes after house republicans rejected a bipartisan senate bill that extended the payroll tax cut by two months. >> the motion is adopted. it's all yours, sir. >> thank you. >> brown: the president pressed the house to reconsider. during a surprise appearance in the white house briefing room this afternoon. >> now, let's be clear. right now the bipartisan compromise that was reached on saturday is the only viable way to prevent a tax hike on january 1. it's the only one. >> brown: speaker boehner, appearing right after the president, sounded equally firm at his own briefing. >> president obama needs to call on senate democrats to go back into session, move to go
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to conference and sit down and resolve this bill as quickly as possible. i sent a letter to the president today asking him to do just this. >> brown: earlier during the house debate, house majority leader eric cantor insisted that republicans in his chamber would not go along with any short-term bill. he said only a full year extension would do. >> families, employers and workers can't live their lives month to month. washington needs to stop adding confusion and more uncertainty to people's lives. >> brown: in all some 160 million people are affected. they pay an average of $1,000 a year more in taxes if congress does not pass an extension before year's end. house republicans called for an immediate negotiation with senate leaders. house democrats, like sheila jackson-lee of texas, rejected that route as risky and unnecessary. >> let me tell you what we're doing today.
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the washington republicans are taking a high risk gamble. this is gambling. this is throwing the dice. >> the senate stands adjourned. >> brown: for its part the senate has already left washington for a month-long holiday recess. and a spokesman for senate majority leader harry reid said we are not coming back. we are not appointing negotiators until they pass the senate compromise. adding to the stakes is the pressure to extend long-term unemployment benefits past year's end. and to waive huge cuts in medicare payments to doctors before they take effect january 18. both were in the senate bill that the house rejected today. todd, what's your reporting todd zwillich is covering the back and forth on capitol hill for "the takeaway" from public radio international and wnyc. he joins us now. tell you about what led to today's rejection of the
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extension by house republicans? where is the pressure coming from? >> well, the pressure really appears to be on speaker john boehner. jeff, it's pressure frankly that we've seen before. a lot of us on capitol hill and a lot of viewers have seen different versions of this movie before. think back to the debt limit. think to the threat of a government shutdown in march. when john boehner, the speaker, was either close to a deal with democrats or appeared to have one and then only had ex-streak difficulty selling to conservatives, in some cases tea party members but not in all cases. that is largely what's gone on here. this time the volume is higher, the anger is higher and people are dug in much deeper. the senate and republican leader mitch mcconnell cut a deal with harry reid last week. it was on that two-month extension that you described. they got an overwhelming bipartisan vote. 89 votes. it wasn't just senator mcconnell who voted for it. marco rubio from florida voted
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for it as well. it was when john boehner the speaker took it back to house republicans to present them with the deal according to some report to go say this is the best deal we're going to get. take it for now. we'll fight again in february. they roundly and loudly rejected it. now he's having trouble in his own conference. >> brown: speaking of digging in, the house acts today and over at the white house the president appears and says we are not giving an inch. they made a decision over there. is he under similar kinds of pressure from democrats on the hill? >> there were a lot of nervous democrats, jeff, when the president took the podium today. they didn't know what he was going to say. often a president in an election year or any other time who wants to appear presidential plays the big boy in the room. he says, i call on the parties to get together and settle this. let's move forward. the president didn't do that. the president took the full- throated political position and challenged john boehner directly, by name, pass the compromise bill that passed the senate.
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let's put politics aside just for two months. we'll fight later. and democrats on the hill were thrilled with that. they felt like it completely solidified their position. it's a political position. let's please not forget that this is an election year. you know, two weeks from now officially an election year after january 1. that's where we're at. the president took a full- throated political position. that is the other half of the dig-in here. >> brown: now we have a situation where everyone says, they say at least that they want this payroll tax extension. now do you see that anybody has a plan-b, a kind of back-up plan for what happens next? >> i'm sorry to tell you that right now there does not appear to be a tangible plan-b. there are whispers around the capital by different people who would like to see a compromise, how the two sides might both save face and move forward, pass something now, guarantee to negotiate later. there are just whispers. when you ask people straight up, what is the way to shake
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this loose, they are dug in. the one good thing about this, it's really not, even though it seems like it, it's really not the 12th hour. there are two weeks to go before this tax cut expires. on new year's eve. yes, it's a drastic inconvenience for members to be here and working between christmas and new year's or right up until christmas. but they can do it. if they find a way to do it, nobody really wants this tax cut to expire. then they'll find a way. there are rumblings how to fix this retroactively. it's difficult to do. once withholding from your paycheck goes back up, how to return the money. very difficult to do. nobody wants to go there. that's already starting to bubble up on capitol hill as well which would mean no solution before new year's. >> brown: you brought up the politics. it's inescapable. what do members tell you it looks like each side somehow thinks that the potential voter back lash will fall on the other. >> that's why some experienced operatives on capitol hill are saying, let's see what happens
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when some of these members go home. and meet with their constituents. that could be the deciding factor here. about what they're hearing. are they hearing, yeah, republicans, you took it to the president. stick with it. don't give in. our republicans hearing, well, we don't like this stand-off? are democrats hearing, hey, we want a year extension, you guys only have a two-month extension. you saw some things shake loose from some senators. frankly all republican senators who are up for re-election like scott brown of massachusetts, like dick lugar of indiana saying the house should just take the senate bill. these were all senators who were up for re-election who have direct political concerns. house members always have direct political concerns. they're up every two years. once they're home a few days, maybe we'll see if some people on either side of the aisle start to change their tune. >> todd zil i can, thanks so much. >> my pleasure. >> woodruff: still to come on the newshour,
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the g.o.p. presidential contest; what's left for iraqis; intelligence failures in north korea; and the redemption of an african warlord. but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: wall street had its best day in months, after encouraging news at home and abroad. the dow jones industrial average surged ahead 337 points to close at 12,103. the nasdaq rose 80 points to close at 2603. the gains came as germany reported increased business and consumer confidence, investors became more confident that spain can repay its debts, and the u.s. government said housing starts rose in november. a snowstorm howled across the great plains for a second day, killing at least six people. high winds and driving snow had closed major highways in five states by late monday, from eastern new mexico to kansas. whiteout conditions stopped many travelers in their paths, and hotels and motels along many routes were booked solid. two feet of snow fell in some places.
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>> it went from rain to sleet to snow. by the time we hit kansas, it was really crazy. i slid off in the median, was there for several hours. took me three hours to get 30 miles. >> sreenivasan: as the day went on, conditions improved a bit across the plains, and major highways reopened. but the brunt of the storm headed into missouri and the great lakes region. in egypt, troops and riot police raided cairo's tahrir square in a new bid to evict protesters against military control. at least 14 people have been killed in five days of violent confrontations. in response, hundreds of women marched through central cairo today criticizing military brutality. there have been repeated attacks on women, including one who was stripped half naked, beaten by soldiers and dragged through the streets. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to gwen. >> ifill: and we turn to the republican presidential race, which has turned into a national dead heat, nowhere more than in iowa, where the first votes will be cast in two weeks. from the moment newt gingrich
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emerged as the latest republican frontrunner, from a group representing former massachusetts governor mitt romney. >> gingrich cashed in. freddie mac paid newt $30,000 an hour, $1.6 million. >> ifill: from texas congressman ron paul. >> he's demonstrated to be the very essence of the washington insiders. >> it's about serial hypocrisy. >> ifill: today in this new ad from texas governor rick perry. >> newt got rich. made millions off freddie mac. >> ifill: gingrich's lead has crumbled. gallup which has tracked public opinion daily showed the former house speaker's once commanding 15-point national lead has all but evaporated down 11 points from 37% to 26% in the last ten days. two other national polls show the same erosion. cnn shows romney and gingrich in a dead heat at 28% with paul hat 14.
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and an abc news "washington post" poll out today places gingrich and romney at 30% with paul a distant third. gingrich, who has less money to spend than his primary competitors, has said he will remain positive. >> others seem to be more focused on attacks rather than moving the country forward. that's up to them. >> ifill: campaigning in iowa yesterday, he called the ads criticizing him negative junk. >> i will do two things. i will tell you what i stand for and what i'm going to try to accomplish. second, i will answer any question that comes up based on the false and inaccurate advertising of some of my friends. but i really wish they would have the courage to be positive. i wish they would have the courage to have a campaign in which we matched ideas. we didn't see whose consultant could be the nastier or run the more clever and destructive ad. >> ifill: with yet another frontrunner's momentum blunted and many voters open to changing their minds, the two-
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week final stretch leading up to the iowa caucuses remains wide open. the short-term beneficiary appears to be president obama whose approval ratings are creeping upwards as republicans take aim at each other. for more on the campaign, we're joined by stuart rothenberg of the rothenberg political report, and contributor to "roll call" newspaper. and susan page, washington bureau chief for "u.s.a. today." susan, we have been to this rodeo before. we saw the rise and fall of michele bachmann, rick perry and herman cain. now the rise and slide newt gingrich. what's behind all this? >> i think you have probably at least have maybe a majority of republican primary and caucus goers who want some alternative to mitt romney. they've gone from one of these social conservative candidates to another. each has been found wanting. so they go on to the next one. this could end up with romney's nomination because there are too many of the candidates dividing up this part of the republican electorate.
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>> ifill: we still see other people who seem to be benefiting. rick santorum got a big conservative endorsement and ron paul does consistently well in these polls. he always seems to be a factor. there's worry that he might actually win in iowa, worry amongst republicans. >> people are falling off gingrich. they didn't really examine him before they decided to support him. now he's being attacked across the board in a variety of ways particularly as being a washington insider and not a conservative. conservatives are looking for somebody else. there's no doubt that ron paul is now a force in iowa. you talk to some people. they think that he absolutely has a chance to win the state. and that the race may ultimately boil down over the next ten days to ron paul and mitt romney. >> ifill: what is appealing about ron paul. >> very clear in his philosophy. he's got a core of support. it's young and tech savvy. it uses the social media. it's been with him for four years. he's run before for president. but i disagree with stewart
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although he's of course much brighter than i am so i worry about disagreeing with him. i don't think this will come down to a battle between romney and ron paul because i don't think ron paul is seen as a credible nominee for the party. there will be an alternative to romney that is other than ron paul. we don't know whether it will be gingrich or perry or somebody else. >> i was talking about iowa, not long temperature. >> ifill: what is not credible about ron paul? his foreign policy? >> there's a ceiling on ron paul particularly on foreign policy. but also on some cultural issues. drugs and the like. his support is very intense. it's very deep. it's just not very wide. he's the kind of person who can get every single ron paul supporter out to the caucuses on, as they say, a cold, snowy winter night. that makes him a force in iowa. but in terms of breadth in other states, it just isn't there. but let me just say this, susan. you're picking a fight with me. if ron paul finishes first or second, he becomes a very complicating factor for others in the race, particularly
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other than mitt romney. romney would be, i think, rather happy or at least contented if ron paul happens to win in iowa. >> ifill: what happens in iowa translated to what happens in new hampshire or south carolina or nationally? we're talking about a primary race. >> i think it does. it has a big effect. for instance if ron paul wins in iowa, that is mitt romney's dream come true. because it means there will be a lot of focus on that. it means that no one else has managed to coalesce and get the kind of catapult out of iowa they would want to have contest mitt romney down the road, for instance in florida. so it is a complicating thing whachlt aaron paul victory would mean is we say there are three tickets out of iowa. i think if ron paul wins there are four tickets out of iowa and this race goes on for a bit longer than we expect. >> brown: you just heard jeff brown talk about the incredible gridlock which has set in on capitol hill. does that resonate at all on
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the campaign trail especially for people who are currently sitting members of congress? >> i don't think as much in the republican race. it has long-term implications potentially for the president and i think it does explain some of the poll numbers inching up. it is wonderful talking points long term for the democrats. i'm not sure it has immediate impact in iowa for the republicans. >> ifill: what about this? >> of course in the end the president won't be running against the republican congress but the republican nominee who will probably not be a member of congress but it gives him a great talking point. it reminds me of what happened in 1995 when the newt gingrich- led house republicans had a budget showdown with president clinton. president clinton wasn't doing that well as that point going into his re-election year. they shut down the government over the holidays. we all remember that. that gave president clinton the kind of boost that he kept all the way through to an easy re-election. >> ifill: there wasn't a shutdown in 2008 but there was the spectacle of john mccain canceling his campaign and rushing back to washington to help solve another budget
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crisis which ultimately helped barack obama. >> this has all the earmarks of the president acting as a grown-up while the others dicker. president obama can say, look, you have to work together. we're all in this together. it just gives him an opportunity to sell himself as a leader and somebody who is above politics. that's always good to be above politics. >> ifill: what do these surveys tell us about who the president would rather run against? romney or gingrich? >> you don't need a poll to show you that. who does the white house attack? mitt romney 100% of the time. occasionally a gesture toward newt gingrich. it's clear that the white house believes mitt romney is the more formidable general election candidate. by attacking him now they can prevent him from getting the nomination or rough him up for the general election. >> ifill: stewart, i want to ask about something you do every year at this time. you do a final column' the most amazing events or the most significant event, political events of the year. and that column came out today. i just want to ask you about
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the most noteworthy political development. >> i wrote that a few days ago, gwen. i'm not sure i remember. but i think i said it was the demise of the iowa straw poll. i think we might actually be seeing something bigger in the works here, the demise of iowa. maybe that's an overstatement but if ron paul wins iowa after michele bachmann winning the straw poll, if ron paul wins iowa, and we all say, well, that doesn't really mean anything, what does it say about iowa? if i was the chairman of the iowa republican party, i'd be a little concerned here that the state credibility is being undercut. >> ifill: this is not the first time iowa has not nominated the person who went on to win the nomination. >> but i think the ron paul is kind of in a different category in terms of his ability to sell nationally. sure, mike huckabee won iowa before. he was not the nominee. but i think with ron paul he is often regarded by most
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republicans not libertarians as outside the republican mainstream. >> ifill: agreed? >> this might be enough to keep ron paul from winning because iowa voters are so sophisticated and so invested in the caucuses being important that i think this line of argument over the next two weeks might help some of these other candidates and hurt ron paul. >> am i going to get emails from ron paul supporters. >> ifill: i think they're already in your in-box. susan page, stu rothenberg, thanks a lot. >> woodruff: next tonight, escalating political tensions in an iraq no longer patrolled by american troops. it was a hero's welcome today at joint base andrew outside washington for american soldiers home for the holidays. and for the last time from iraq. >> greeting you here today with your troopers is an honor and a privilege that i won't long forget.
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>> woodruff: the president and the vice president looking on, the chairman of the joint chiefs, army general martin dempsey, welcomed back the officers who managed the u.s. withdrawal. >> 30 million iraqis are free today. they now have a choice in their future and an unprecedented opportunity to live in peace and prosperity. inside iraq, within the region. >> woodruff: but the last u.s. convoy had hardly crossed into kuwait on sunday when iraq was thrust into new and potentially dangerous political turmoil. an arrest warrant was issued for vice president on charges that he had run death squads during the sectarian blood bath of 2006 and 2007. as proof, the purported confession of a man named ahmed was broadcast. he said the vice president spoke to him through an intermediary. >> he told me i choose you to carry out serious tasks.
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and you are able to do them well. you should implement what i want. your interest and that of your family concern me. this means he warned me that if i won't implement such a mission, we will harm you and your family. i understood what he meant. i told him, yes, sir, at your disposal. >> woodruff: al hasmi who is sunni muslim angrily denied the charge today and he dared the government to try to arrest him in the kurdish city where he's taken refuge. the vice president also accused iraq's shiite prime minister nouri al-maliki of stoking barely controlled sectarian flames in a bid to consolidate power. >> al maliki is behind the whole issue. the country is in the hands of al maliki. all the efforts that had been exerted to reach national reconciliation and to unite iraq are now gone. yes, i blame al maliki. >> woodruff: it is a charge he leveled in an interview last
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year with the newshour's margaret warner in baghdad. >> this could lead easily to another dictatorship. >> warner: a dictatorship by whom? >> by whoever, al maliki. if he's going to be the prime minister, he's not going to change his course. definitely this country is drifting to dictatorship or fragile democracy. >> mr. prime minister, you've said that iraqis seek democracy, a state of citizens and not sects. >> woodruff: just last week president obama had welcomed al maliki to the white house as the u.s. presence in iraq wound down after nearly nine years. >> people throughout the region will see a new iraq that's determining its own destiny, a country in which people from different religious sects and ethnicities can resolve their differences peacefully through the democratic process. >> woodruff: today white house spokesman jay carney was asked what steps the administration is taking to quell the crisis.
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>> we are talking to all parties to express our concern regarding niece developments. we continue to urge all sides to work to resolve differences peacefully. ambassador james jeffrey as well as other u.s., senior u.s. officials, have been in frequent contact with iraqi leaders on this matter and will continue to do so. >> woodruff: in the meantime several high profile maliki opponents like former prime minister alawi have sided with hasmi as political and ethnic divisions flare once again now, two assessments from iraqi- americans of the growing political turmoil in iraq. feisal istrabadi was iraq's deputy ambassador to the united nations and is now a visiting law professor at indiana university. abbas kadhim is an assistant professor at the naval post- graduate school. he has written extensively about iraqi shia.
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with us. i'll start with you, faisel istrabadi, what is going on right now between the prime minister and the vice president? >> well, i think what iraqis are in store for is an attempt by maliki to establish that he is the sort of unchallenged ruler of iraq. at least i fear that that's what's going on. last week, remember, that the vice president hasmi belongs to the political coalition headed by the former prime minister alawi. last week you started having tanks show up on the streets of baghdad in front of the houses of people like alawi who are outspoken critics of the prime minister and then in the last 24 or 36 hours, you have seen this developing story of a warrant to arrest the sitting vice president of iraq on terrorism charges. it is, i think, a very dangerous game that the prime minister is playing. and it can indeed result in ripping apart the country
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along concessional grounds yet again after 2006 and 2007 when there was a de facto civil war. >> woodruff: is it a potentially dangerous game with the the prime minister al maliki trying to consolidate his position? >> during the past years i normally don't make a policy to disagree with my friend faisel istrabadi but i might look aitt from a probably slightly different way. i think that maliki is not much trying to be the unchallenged ruler of iraq but trying to become a stronger prime minister or a strong prime minister in iraq which is what iraq needs right now because the most challenging months probably for iraq are the months following the withdrawal of the united states. and maliki's responsibilities are huge. i think that of course does not justify any extra judicial
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actions or something that is not constitutional, but... no audio) will use to be the minister of culture was accused of terrorism. in fact it's a fugitive right now. there is more to it than just making a charge against a person as important as hasmi. but i think we have to wait and see what evidence will be presented. i have a lot of faith in the iraqi judiciary and i think they will sort it out very well. >> woodruff: sorry about that. the video slipped away there just a moment but it came back. back to you, faisel istrabadi. could it be with what mr. kadhim is saying, a temporary move on the part of prime minister maliki to be stronger now that the american troops have left?