tv Washington Week PBS January 21, 2022 7:30pm-8:01pm PST
anchor: president biden's first year. >> nobody has ever organized a strategic operation to get as many shots in arms. anchor: the president faces tough questions at a rare marathon press conference. he promotes his achievements. >> some may call what is happening now a new normal. i call it a job not yet finished. anchor: and defends his setbacks. >> it is one thing it is a minor incursion. anchor: is messaging on russia and ukraine leads to international tension. the gop marks the anniversary with criticism. >> he has to get away from representing the radical left. anchor: democrats fail to pass voting rights legislation.
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our moderator. yamiche: good evening and welcome to "washington week." this week matched one year since president biden took the oath of office. challenges abound. covid is surging. inflation is at a 40 year high. his approval rail test rating is sliding he held the longest presidential press conference in history. one hour and 51 minutes. he touted progress on fighting covid, but admitted that more could have been done. >> should we have done more testing earlier? yes. but we are doing more now. yamiche: he called out republicans for former president trump's continued grip on the gop. >> did you ever think one man out of office could intimidate an entire party? wherthey are unwilling to take
any vote contrary to what he thinks should be taken? fear being defeated in a primary. yamiche: a day later, republicans blasted the president. >> we have an economy that is damaged, cities and streets that are dangerous. we have adversaries who feel emboldened. yamiche: joining me tonight to discuss the president'a some ultra's year and what is to come , the white house correspondent for politico. the chief washington correspondent for the new york times, and e white house correspondent for nbc news. thank you all for being here. we remain remote because we are living through this pandemic. you are in the room at the press conference. talk about how the president is
trying to reset in this moment as the pandemic continues to dominate american lives? >> it was his second solo press conference at the white house since taking office. compared the one he had around march of last year, the president admitted some things that were misjudgments on his part. thanks he thought the white house could have done differently, including making sure more tests were widely available for the coronavirus. he talked about how he genuinely did not expect republicans to obstruct as much of his agenda as they have so far. some people may be surprised to hear him say that considering that during his campaign, he ran saying he was someone who could create a this bridge with republicans. he could get washington working more like it used to.
a lot of democratic candidates ran against him in the primary saying tt would not be the case. washington had changed and what he remembered during his senate years was not possible. you have seen that frustration fr biden more and more. yamiche: we will definitely talk about his surprise at the gop opposition. i want to ask a follow-up, what is the thinking way comes to equity as it distributes tests and masks? some people are very worried they will be the most vulnerable populations not being able to get access to those things. >> the white house right now is really trying to come out very forcefully on coronavirus. they are trying to show that they are getting ahead of the curve. they are trying to send masks to a lot of families, provide test, but the cdc director recently told politico that they think
there needs to be an entire overhaul in terms of how the public health apparatus operates rid whether or not there are going to be bigger changes is something we will be looking for. yamiche: there is a conversation about the president being surprised about how the gop is opposing much of his agenda. talk a little bit about how what the conversation is. how the president is viewing this. you have been covering biden for so long. >> i was on air force to with vice president biden the day after he and obama were reelected. he said republicans will come to the table. i was with him on the day of the midterm elections in 2018 when democrats were expecting a big rejection of president trump.
he said once we see these democratic victories, republicans will realize they have to run away from trump. he thought it was time to work together with republicans. president trump is a bigger figure within the republican party that he was a year ago when they were running away from them in some respects after the january 6 insurrection. the president says he is surprised that president trump is still their leader. president biden is starting to frame the midterm election is a choice between democrats who sometimes have aositive -- policy agenda they are divided about, but at least you know what it is rated republicans seem to be just about opposition. yamiche: the fever did not
break. we call you the washington whisper. you have been covering washington for so long. you said president biden's three decades of experience is actually working against him. tell us more about that. >> i associate myself with those remarks. the president basically acknowledged he had underestimated the depth of republican obstruction. he had worked with mitch mcconnell before. he really knows how to do it. that turned out to be a disadvantage. evaluate -- ew he would be able to engage with congress and sort
all this out. congress is always a mess. i think you are seeing a recognition right now from the white house to rise above it. saying we need to get out in the country more. that is a classic statement from an administration that is struggling in washington. they don't need to replay every negotiation and phone call that happened with joe manchin. that makes it look like you're not getting things done. they are in a fix on their agenda. yamiche: one of the times -- things they are trying to get done is voting rights. president biden promised to do more to reach out to black voters and address their
concerns. >> i have not been out in the community nearly enough. that is a problem. it is my own making. yamiche: but later that night a push to pass voting legislation failed. mitch mcconnell is under fire for this statement about black voters. >> the concern is misplaced. if you look at the statistics, african-american voters are voting and just as higher percentage as americans. >> senator mcconnell says he misspoke. he defended his record on race by noting that he was at the
1963 wash on -- march on washington. senator manchin was delivering a speech saying he would not support the filibuster. >> i think that was a bad timing situation. they were going to hold up this measure. they both support the package itself. it failed. we'll new this was going to fail. -- we all knew this was going to fail. the democrats were hoping to convince them that this is such a crisis situation that something had to be done. they did not get there. democrats the next day were not
feeling whipped. they violated the rules of congress in a way. they thought they had to do it. they think they made some progress. they showed people a lot about the history of the filibuster, way could be changed. i don't think there giving up on this. there is some compromise talk that is really about changing the counting of presidential election votes. democrats took their beating but they are going to keep on going on this. the president, there is a feeling that this was a little too late from him. he should have been more aggressive earlier on. yamiche: we are talking about that. i want to ask you about these comments mitch mcconnell made. he is now saying he misspoke.
what are you seeing from people? >> civil rights advocates as well as black leaders i have spoken to, they are not happy with this. they are very aware of the fact that republicans are not supporting these bills. a small group of republicans say they may support change of the presidential count act. voters are very upset about where republicans are coming down on this iue. there were activists who felt like it was a little too late. it was important to hear him in atlanta making this very stark case posing the question not just to republicans t also to some democrats.
what side do you want to be on? we have seen biden again and again turned to history to try to appeal to people in his party as well as republicans to take a stand on issues like this. yamiche: you are talking about people wanting to take a stand. the other thing interesting in this press conference, the president talked about inflation. what is the strategy? how will this work? >> one of the reasons the white house was able to work with republicans was in part because they needed time to figure out what they would be doing about their agenda. advocates on the voting rights side thought that was the moment
to move forward on voting righ. the president talked about if they moved ahead, they would lose votes. now we are back to square one on both issues. they have a couple of avenues through reconciliation and a partyline vote to do some big things. it is more likely that democrats will try to get the scaled-back version, writing in joe manchin's office, the argument to the voters is part of what this will be about is tackling inflation, putting more money in people's wallets. in an election year, the economy is primed to be an important issue. they will get as much as they can and then they will fly over the rest. they will take these issues to voters in the fall. frame the issue. tell democrats who are distant that this is the time to elect more democrats to make sure we
can come back. yamiche: we will switch to foreign policy. one last question. give us an update on the january 6 committee. we saw a lot of activity this week. >> i think they are making process -- progress. the general feeling is they are uncovering a lot of material. we will be looking for public hearings later. some pretty significant importance. yamiche: all of this is going on with foreign policy. the president addressed it. the question about russia. vladimir putin will not move into ukraine. but he created some confusion en he said this. >> it is one thing if it is a minor incursi and we have to fight about what to do or not to do. yamiche: about an hour later,
the press secretary tried to clarify the stamps. >> any assembled russian units going across the board or, that is an invasion. let there be no doubt at all. yamiche: joining us now from ukraine is a national security reporter for the wall street journal. thank you for being up late. i know it is very early in the morning there area the ukrainian president tweeted there are no minor incursions into small nations. what is the latest you are hearing from your sources. >> a couple of hours after the president made those comments, he sai there is no such thing as half aggression. you are either aggressive or not aggressive.
he said even by trying to distinguish between a minor incursion and a full invasion, which has some background information about what nato allies are talking about. what the foreign minister said is you basically give a green light to find excuses to carry on with his aggressive behavior. what the white house was trying to clarify, and something i have been talking to a number of officials, there is a distinction right now taking place between a minor incursion, which they mean not a full on incursion of boots on the ground, but his language reverberated across ukraine. they thought it was sending a negative message. yamiche: is language sending a message, it created international tension.
talk about what the consequences are that russia might face. whether these warnings will be enough from stopping him from any kind of invasion. >> so far the white house and nato allies have been threatening bruising sanctions. they have repeated that over and over again. what we have seen is the opposite. an escalation where not only was there a cyberattack where russia is accused of being behind it, they have been joint exercises to the north of ukraine, right over the border in belarus. they think it is in operation. i had some exclusives with the foreign minister and defense minister this week. they are a half and circle
country. and yet the allies are still grappling with what to do. there is a lot of disagreement as far as what these sanctions package should be. a lot of nato allies have their economies very intertwined with russia. it could really reverberate across the continent. washington likes to step back and let europe take the lead on these issues. we saw anthony blanke inherent this week. he was promising ukraine that they would be behind them. the question is if there is political will in the u.s. the president has a really tough road ahead. there's a lot going on with the pandemic. there is so much focus on that, it is hard to go forward with something like this. in europe, there is not so much incentive because of the
economic consequences. the ukrainians say they need to move quickly before an invasion happens. yamiche: jump in here, talk about how the wte house is thinking about this. >> incredible reporting in ukraine. i remember being on set with you around the six-month mark of the biden administration. we had just come back from his first foreign trip which was showcasing the alliances restored with our european allies. speaking tough and directly with putin. now think about where we are at the one-year mark. what was really revealed this week is the president likes to say no one doubts that he says what he means, but some times he says all he means. he is speaking to candidly about some of the divisions behind the scenes within our alliances at a time when the strength of that
alliance was the primary deterrence that our national security team was trying to put forward with russia. it is also worth noting that president putin follows american politics. he sees what the president's standing is. he is using this as an opportunity to test biden. he sees an opportunity. yamiche: what do you hear from the white house about how the president views one-on-one conversations with putin? >> it appears as though they are open to having more conversation. the secretary of state said they are open to potentially having another summit to try to hash out this diplomatically. the latest was they will be
taki stock of what occurred this week, what those discussed -- was discussed. we could get more news about whether or not there will be a meeting between them. yamiche: you are on capitol hill, what is that thinking about foreign policy and how it might impact the midterms? >> i think there is a strong bipartisan effort to be pretty tough on russia. to impose sanctions. if a war breaks out, this sweeps a lot of other issues beside. people will really focus on it. it has theotential to change the dynamic. this was supposed to be president biden's strength, great knowledge of foreign policy. he stepped in it. an area where he is supposed to be strong. he made a pretty significant mistake. yamiche: the president's poll
numbers have really taken a hit from the withdraw from afghanistan. talk a little bit about this impact on his rhetoric. >> a ukrainian official called at the afghanistan syndrome to me. the u.s. is having trouble getting allies to work with it more closely. is the u.s. able to command a crisis because of what happened in afghanistan last summer in the chaos that ensued during that withdrawal? a question of what is in store politically back home. a lot of allies questioning if president biden will be in office and another couple of years. they are looking at that very closely in eastern europe and throughout the continent. really holding their breath to
see what happens. yamiche: it is interesting they are still holding their breath. i remember being in geneva with other reporters talking about this idea that there are a lot of european leaders and world leaders who are looking at president biden thinking, how long will this biden doctrine last? thank you for joining us. to all of our guests. they will be joining us as we continue our conversation on our website, facebook, and youtube. tune in monday. we will take a look at a miami dance troupe's new spin on swan lake. thank you again for watching. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
♪ >> corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by consumer cellular. additional funding is provided by the estate of arnold adams, the ewan foundation, bridging cultural differences in our communities. robert and susan rosenbaum. the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. ♪